The Obama administration, by way of the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration), today officially petitioned the FCC to voice its opinion that carriers should be required unlock customer's phones. The petition cuts right to the point, stating that US consumers should be able to request that their phone, tablet or other device be unlocked — and have it done free of charge and with no strings attached.
Said NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling, going further to say that the burden of handling unlocking should be put on the carrier, not the users, and that the process should be "expeditious and transparent." A Library of Congress decision regarding the DMCA took the ability for consumers to legally unlock their phones last year, and this petition hopes to secure these rights outside of that act.
The NTIA claims that carriers have plenty of mechanisms for keeping customers on their networks and following their rules, regardless of ability to unlock a handset and take it to a competitor. And we can likely all agree that this is the case, as unlocking a phone doesn't change the fact that you may still be in a service contract with that carrier.
Although this is a great step in the direction of consumers having control over their devices, it's up to the FCC to create the framework for this to happen. The NTIA is hoping to get the ball rolling though, stating:
The Obama administration has seemed to stay on the side of consumers with previous statements on this matter, but we have to hope that the FCC can set a strong framework to make sure carriers not only are required to unlock phones but are also held accountable for following the laws. As we all know, carriers don't always follow through on FCC requirements to be open with devices.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.