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Obama Wants FCC To Enforce Free Phone Unlocking

September 17, 2013 - Written By Alexander Maxham

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, thanks to the Obama Administration, has now petitioned the FCC with suggested rules to formalize not only the legality of unlocking phones, but that the carriers be required to do so free of charge. This proposal from the NTIA says that any customer (whether they are under contract or not) should be able to unlock their phone or tablet.

As most of you know, one of the reasons why carriers lock phones is to keep customers from switching, after they’ve bought a subsidized phone from them. The NTIA is arguing that carriers already have plenty of levers to keep customers on board, writing that carriers “effectively prevent consumers from subverting that contract model through long-term service contracts, enforced by penalties or fees for early termination.”

Additionally, these proposed rules would also allow new customers to get an unlock from a carrier stating “A lawful recipient of a wireless device should be able to benefit from the proposed unlocking requirement.” Meaning that a carrier would be available to unlock a phone itself or “providing authorization” to another carrier to execute the unlock. It’s also important to note here that the NTIA is also suggesting that unlocking become a requirement, placing the onus for making it happen squarely on the carriers: “The proposed rule would shift the burden associated with device unlocking onto the carriers that imposed the locks, and ensure they consistently do so in a way that is both expeditious and transparent.”

Obviouslt the NTIA advises the government on such issues, has put together the rules after the White House responded to a petition from earlier this year that cell phone unlocking should be legal. The FCC is probably goint to be receptive to the NTIA’s proposal since just under a month ago the interim chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said that the FCC was already working with the carriers’ execs for a possible solution.

So it looks like we’re making good progress here. Sounds good, right?