It has been a long time coming, but the day has now finally arrived. Whatever network you currently use in the U.S., from today, the carriers are now obligated to help you unlock your smartphone. Of course, if you are on a contract, you are still obligated to complete your two years, but that is to be expected. Over the last couple of years, the completion of your contract was never really the issue. What was the issue, however, is that carriers made it an unnecessarily difficult to task to unlock your device, once it was rightfully yours. After you had completed your contract, if you had wanted to change carriers, then doing so with a locked device was an arduous task. Of course, you could always simply unlock the device yourself. However, some time ago the personal unlocking of a device become essentially illegal, to the dismay of many. This was followed by a reversal in the law last year thankfully, allowing individuals to unlock their devices again, once their contract has finished.
Since then, Tom Wheeler (Chairman of the FCC) has fought to bring the carriers to task and ensure that when a device is eligible to be unlocked, carriers assist in a meaningful manner. Well, the agreement between those carriers and Wheeler culminated in late 2013, although the eventual rollout of the service had been slow going, with carriers given time to migrate to the new agreed terms of the service. Well, today that deadline has passed and all major U.S. carriers must assist in the unlocking process, should you want to be unlocked.
So what should you expect going forward? Well, if you are postpaid, then you can expect the carriers to either assist or provide the information needed, to unlock your device once your two-year agreement has finished. That is, as long as you are in good-standing and no monies owed. If you are prepaid, then the agreement states carriers (upon request) must within one year of activation, unlock prepaid mobile devices. Either way, all carriers are now compelled to post their respective unlocking policies on their website so that you are aware of your unlocking rights. Not to mention that carriers are now obligated to inform customers once their 'unlocking date' is approaching and respond to all unlocking requests within two days. Nice work Tom.