New FCC Chairman to Wireless Carriers: Unlock Users’ Phones

US-FCC-Seal.svgFCC’s new Chairman, Tom Wheeler knows that depending on your cellular contract, it may be very easy or impossible to unlock your phone. On his first day in office, he wrote this letter to Steve Largent, CEO of CTIA, a trade group representing cellular carriers:

It is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate. Let’s set a goal of including the full unlocking rights policy in the CTIA Consumer Code before the December holiday season.

Wheeler’s proposal would amend CTIA’s consumer code by enacting the following changes:  

(a) provide a clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on unlocking;

(b) unlock mobile wireless devices for customers, former customers, and legitimate owners when the applicable service contract, installment plan, or ETF [early termination fee] has been fulfilled;

(c) affirmatively notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking and/or automatically unlock devices when eligible, without an additional fee;

(d) process unlocking requests or provide an explanation of denial within two business days; and

(e) unlock devices for military personnel upon deployment.

 

Until these changes are made, you can quickly find out how to unlock your phone through this quick Unlockapedia service on Giffgaff, which also provides reviews on unlocking services. For most phones, you must fulfill your cellular contract prior to unlocking.