FCC chief pressures carriers on cellphone unlocking

The agency wants the CTIA to approve new voluntary rules soon

The newly seated chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has told mobile operators to voluntarily ease up on cellphone unlocking or risk being forced to do so.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sent a letter on Thursday to Steve Largent, president and CEO of the mobile industry group CTIA, that called on the group to agree to several reforms around cellphone unlocking. The letter follows eight months of talks between the FCC and CTIA over a proposed amendment to the CTIA's Consumer Code, Wheeler wrote.

The FCC wants carriers to make it easier for mobile subscribers to get their phones unlocked once they've fulfilled their carrier contracts. Unlocking can allow a user to switch carriers without buying a new phone and committing to another long-term contract.

The only sticking point in the talks is over whether carriers should tell their subscribers when their devices are eligible for unlocking, Wheeler wrote.

"Absent the consumer's right to be informed about unlocking eligibility, any voluntary program would be a hollow shell," Wheeler wrote.

"Enough time has passed, and it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate," the letter said. "Let's set a goal of including the full unlocking rights policy in the CTIA Consumer Code before the December holiday season."

Other points in the proposed guidelines would include carriers providing a clear and readily accessible unlocking policy, unlocking devices for current and former customers when they are eligible, processing requests for unlocking within two business days, and unlocking devices for military personnel when they are deployed.

In March, the White House affirmed a call for cellphone unlocking rights that came in a petition to its "We The People" online forum. The petition, signed by 114,000 people, asked the government to legalize unlocking.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governmentmobileregulationctiaU.S. Federal Communications Commission

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?