FCC wants to force carriers to unlock phones for consumers

FCC wants to force carriers to unlock phones for consumers
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Don’t like your phone carrier because of shoddy reception or literally any other reason – but your device is carrier-locked to that service provider? The FCC is looking to make it easier for consumers to switch to a different service provider.

According to a new proposed rule by the FCC, phone carriers could be forced to unlock users’ phones and allow consumers to move the device to a provider of their choosing.

“When you buy a phone, you should have the freedom to decide when to change service to the carrier you want and not have the device you own stuck by practices that prevent you from making that choice,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement along with the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

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“Real competition benefits from transparency and consistency,” she continued. “That is why we are proposing clear, nationwide mobile phone unlocking rules.”

For many years, cell phone and smartphone users were forced to stick with a telecommunications company that their device was locked to. In 2014, new laws gave consumers more rights over unlocking their device, a practice which had previously been illegal.

Under the new proposal, rules around unlocked phones would be much simpler. Carriers would be required to unlock a user’s phone 60 days after activation. 

As TechCrunch points out, there are likely some issues that will need to be addressed regarding this proposal. For example, many consumers purchase their phones through installment plans or via multi-year contracts that bind them to a carrier.

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However, at the same time, carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile often use questionable methods to lock consumers into service plans well after a device is bought and paid for. The FCC is seeking to make phone purchases much more transparent.

We’ll find more information about the law next month when the FCC shares the full proposal document and opens up public commentary on the issue.


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