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The FCC and U.S. wireless carriers are still working on a few details

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working with U.S. carriers to complete new rules for unlocking cell phones, and it looks like an agreement is on the horizon.

According to Reuters, the new agreement is expected make sure that carriers notify customers about their cell phone unlocking eligibility (via text or otherwise) and also require them to process or deny unlocking requests within two business days.

Some prepaid phones could also be included in these new rules.  

Unlocking a cell phone means that it can be used with any carrier, but it became illegal for consumers to do it themselves earlier this year after a ruling by the Librarian of Congress.
This means that consumers have to depend on carriers to unlock their phones, and this isn't always easy. Sometimes carriers refuse to do so because they want to lock customers into their service contracts in exchange for heavy subsidized prices on new devices. This is particularly inconvenient for consumers traveling abroad who don't want huge roaming charges, or if they simply want to change carriers. 

But now, the rules are expected to allow mobile customers to unlock their phones after their contact expires. It will also bring uniformity to all U.S. carriers, so that different rules across different carriers don't become a headache. 
The Reuters report mentioned that the FCC and U.S. carriers are still discussing key points before an agreement is made, such as how fast the new policy would be rolled out; how to keep unlocked phones off of black markets, and how pre-paid phones would be handled.
The agreement is expected "soon."
Just last month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sent a letter to Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA Wireless Association, which is a trade group that represents cellular carriers. The letter told wireless carriers to unlock consumer's cell phones once they've fulfilled contract obligations, or the FCC will be forced to regulate. 
You can check the full letter out here

Source: Reuters

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By Roy2001 on 12/12/2013 1:50:55 PM , Rating: 2
I don't mean they should cancel subsidy/contract at all. I just mean they should give customers choices.

By Solandri on 12/12/2013 2:49:58 PM , Rating: 5
The problem isn't that subsidized contracts are bad. The problem is that it's not a subsidy.

I'm on a 3-year old smartphone. I bought it subsidized with a 2 year contract. If it were a real subsidy, then it was fully paid for after 2 years and my monthly service rate should have dropped. It did not - I'm still paying the same monthly service rate as before even though I'm using a phone that's fully paid off and not subsidized.

It is not a subsidy. It's a financial mechanism to coerce people into spending more money to buy a new phone every 2 years. While I am looking to upgrade, I'm in no hurry. The old phone still works. But because of the carriers' "subsidy" model, I'm essentially paying them an extra ~$20/mo for a phone that's completely bought and paid for.

If they really wanted it to be a subsidy, they would simply structure the subsidy as a loan because that's what it is. They loan you $400 to reduce the $600 phone's cost to $200. Then they charge you $20/mo for 2 years to repay the phone ($400 in principal, $80 in interest). Your cell phone bill would then have two parts - the monthly service and the loan repayment.

And when the phone is fully paid for, the loan repayment disappears and all you're left with is the monthly service. But the way the carriers have it structured, the loan repayment continues even after you've paid off the phone, thus coercing you into buying a new phone so you aren't repaying a loan for nothing.

By jbwhite99 on 12/13/2013 12:15:29 PM , Rating: 2
That's what T-Mobile is doing.

By philpoe on 12/13/2013 2:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
And now AT&T as well.

All the "budget" carriers do something similar. Pay the full price for the phone, then get the discounted plan. Until recently they contracted cut-rate phones.

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