The RTIA calls on the FCC to make mobile device unlocking legal again

September 18, 2013
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unlocked-phone

Earlier this year, an exemption in the DMCA expired that effectively made cellphone unlocking illegal in the United States. Shortly after this, a petition rose up calling for the government to do something about it. This led to declarations of support for cellphone unlocking fromĀ the FCC, theĀ Obama administrationĀ and severalĀ members of Congress.

Despite all the initial hoopla, nothing has changed.

The good news is that the issue isn’t completely forgotten.Ā Last month, the FCC stepped forward promising it would redouble its efforts to make cellphone unlocking legal. Now it seems that the Obama administration is also renewing its efforts.

A newĀ National Telecommunications and Information Administration petition calls for the FCC to “immediately initiate the process of setting rules” that would allow the unlocking of both tablets and cellphones. The NTIA filing further suggests that the unlocking of devices should be done at a customer’s request, with absolutely no cost to the consumer.

Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle.
Lawrence Strickling
Assistant Secretary of the NTIA.

The NTIA petition certainly sounds good, but it does very little in reality. The problem is that the FCC canā€™t make these kinds of laws on their own, and can merely ā€˜talkā€™ with carriers and law-making entities. Still, this is another step forward and could hopefullyĀ lead to a legal solution (finally).

To be fair, no one from the FBI is going to come knocking on your door if your unlock your handset. Still, it would beĀ nice to know that the device you bought under subsidy is yours to do with as you please, without fear of coming afoul of the law. It would also be nice to know that your phone can be unlocked for free by the carrier, without having to go through the burden of unlocking a device yourself.

What do you think, should carriers have the right to keep devices locked down, or should cellphone locking be completely legal?

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