FCC Pushes Carriers to Unlock Phones In 60 Days

(IntegrityTimes.com) – On Thursday June 27 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed a new rule that would require wireless providers would have to unlock all cellphones within 60 days of activation.

Currently, most cellular companies sell devices that are tied to their own network and cannot be used with any others. It also makes it difficult to buy and sell used devices. While the new rule would be very beneficial to the consumers it is likely to invoke considerable resistance from the carriers.

Rosenworcel commented that customers should have the freedom to change their service providers whenever they want. Under the new rule, consumers could more easily change their wireless provider to any other that was compatible with their device. The FCC proposal also suggests that it would reduce confusion and switching costs by applying the same rules to all providers. This would be a major change as the unlocking process for mobile devices varies greatly by company. Some allow it as a matter of course after a year of service and others only allow it for customers in good standing with the provider.

This could be a major upheaval for a lot of carrier’s business models, however, so they may object strenuously to the proposed changes. Some mobile providers heavily subsidize their devices to attract consumers to lengthy contracts. Others add the cost of expensive devices onto monthly payments. These contracts are only possible to offer with locked phones so that people can’t just sign up, get a new phone, and then switch providers. Some carriers may support the new rules, though. Verizon already allows unlocking on their devices after 60 days due to a previous agreement with the FCC.

On July 18, there will be an open meeting where the FCC will vote on the proposed rule changes. In the days following the vote, the FCC will be seeking comment on the proposed rule. They will be looking for arguments on whether the new requirements should be applied to current or future contracts. There is also the question of whether the new rules might be beneficial to smaller carriers or phone resellers. After the public comment period, the FCC will develop a final version of the proposed rule and there will be more opportunity for public comment.

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