FCC Chairman: I Want Carriers to Allow Phone Unlocking

The newly crowned chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, is clearly an ambitious man: he's on a crusade to get carriers to allow phone unlocking.

Despite having been in post for less than a month, he's written a letter—that's, oddly, how these things still work—to the CTIA explaining that he thinks that it's time carriers changed their phone unlocking policy. He explained that he wanted the CTIA—a trade association representing the wireless carriers—to codify a consumer's right which would mean they could unlock their device once a wireless contract's obligations had been met:

"For eight months, the FCC staff has been working with CTIA on an amendment to your Consumer Code in which this industry would address consumers' rights to unlock their mobile wireless devices once their contracts are fulfilled. Enough time has passed, and it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate."

He went further, describing that the policy must be "clear, concise, and readily accessible" and allow consumers to unlock their device "when the applicable service contract, installment plan, or ETF has been fulfilled." He even suggested that US carriers ought automatically notify customers when a product is eligible for unlocking—or even automatically unlock them, all free of charge!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the CTIA isn't massively keen on the idea, but the good thing about making such bold suggestions is that it means there's plenty of room for negotiation. For now, though, unlocking your smartphone without a carrier's permission remains illegal. Maybe, one day, that might change. [Tom Wheeler's Letter via Verge]