FCC Breaks the Smartphone Lock

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The Federal Communications Commission has reached an agreement with wireless providers allowing the practice of unlocking fully-owned smartphones so that they can be used on a different network to become legal, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler said on Thursday, according to a report from Reuters.

U.S. wireless carriers usually lock smartphones purchased by customers so that the devices will only work on that particular carrier’s network, at least until a contract has been fulfilled. Locking smartphones makes switching carriers inconvenient and expensive. While this is appealing to carriers looking to cling to customers, consumers are not happy that wireless carriers think they can have partial ownership over their customers’ phones even if the devices have been paid for.

According to industry sources that spoke to Reuters, the FCC’s new rules require wireless carriers to allow customers the ability to unlock devices for use on any network if the smartphone has been paid for. Carriers will have to notify customers when their devices are eligible to be unlocked and will have to either process or deny unlock requests within two business days. All customers will be eligible to unlock their phones when they reach the end of a contract and the process will be simplified across the major U.S. carriers.

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