FCC looking into ban on unlocking on-contract iPhones and other phones

FCC may step in to let you unlock your phone

The FCC is going to look into the ban on unlocking phones. The ban, which came into effect on January 26 of this year, made it illegal to unlock an on-contract device for use on another carrier. Citing concerns over innovations, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the commission would be looking into the matter. According to TechCrunch:

Genachowski isn’t sure what authority he has, but if he finds any, given the tone of the conversation, it’s likely he will exert his influence to reverse the decision. “It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones.”

The illegality of unlocking phones benefits carriers by keeping you locked into your contract. Of course, you can still pay an early termination fee, but now you have to get a new device when you move to a new carrier. This increases the hassle of the switching process, which carriers already make as hard as possible. Expect the carriers to fight back, because anything that makes it even a little easier for a customer to take their money elsewhere is a threat to their bottom line.

Are you glad that the FCC is investigating? Have you ever unlocked or considered unlocking your phone?

Source: TechCrunch

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is a news reporter for iMore. He's also chilling out and having a sandwich.

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Reader comments

FCC looking into ban on unlocking on-contract iPhones and other phones

6 Comments

I haven't considered unlocking my phone but I am glad the FCC is checking into it so at least I'll know if the option is there.

I'm considering it right now. I just bought a iPhone from someone that works with my wife and it's reduced to an iPod Touch because it's locked down.

I have in the past. But since "unlocking" has traditionally only been technically possible on two major carriers under FCC oversight anyway, I think this is more about perception. Unless/until people can port the phone itself on/off Verizon and Sprint as well as AT&T and T-Mobile, it"s a non-issue to half the country.

As it should. Paying the ETF satisfies the terms of the contract, thus making the phone "off contract". At that point you SHOULD be able to unlock with another carrier since you own the phone free and clear.

I am glad that the FCC is investigating this but I feel like when you pay a lower price for your phone then you are basically leasing the phone so you don't have any rights. If you want freedom then buy the unlocked phone directly from Apple and then you don't have a contract. Look at the new TMobile plans you get a low cost iPhone but pay payments every month. Even with an unlocked phone it has special components to work on a specific network so it still can't be changed from one to the other.