Wireless Telcos Adhere to FCC’s Request to Unlock Phones

Wireless telcos Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular have agreed to the FCC’s demands to unlock subscribers’ phones. The Commission’s chairman Tom Wheeler gave the providers the ultimatum to unlock phones or face regulation, and now they — along with CTIA – The Wireless Association — have complied, agreeing to meet requirements within a year. They’re recommending the policies be incorporated in the association’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service.

Engadget says that, according to a letter sent by the CTIA to the FCC, “this means that the telcos mentioned above ‘will move quickly to implement these principles’ in total within a year.”

This means that within 12 months, the telcos will:

  • Provide a clear, concise and readily accessible policy on unlocking.
  • Unlock mobile devices for legitimate owners of those devices once their service contract has been fulfilled.
  • Notify customers when their devices are eligible to be unlocked and/or automatically unlock those devices for free.
  • Unlock devices or provide an explanation of a denial of any unlock requests within two days.
  • Unlock devices for military service men and women upon deployment.

“For its part, the FCC was gracious in victory,” Engadget notes. According to the article, in an open Commission meeting, Chairman Wheeler said he was happy that agreement was reached quickly, adding, “this is the way things should work.”

Commissioner Ajit Pai said, however, that the policy change isn’t enough. “Pai went on to call on Congress to fix the flaws with U.S. copyright law that are the underlying root of the problem, and he hopes that this shift in CTIA policy will ‘help expedite the legislative process,'” explains Engadget.