FCC Chairman says cellphone unlocking ban raises concerns, pledges to investigate it

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from Omaha, NE
Published: March 1, 2013


There's been a bit of a hubbub going on lately concerning the Library of Congress's decision to remove an exemption in the DMCA that allowed consumers to unlock their phones without having to go through their carrier to do so. A petition recently earned the amount of signatures necessary to get a White House response on the matter, and now it looks like another government entity will be looking into the situation.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has revealed that his agency plans to investigate the change. Genachowski explained that he feels that the move raises concerns about competition and innovation in the wireless industry, and while he's unsure how much authority the FCC has on the matter, it's definitely an issue that he'll be exploring. "It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones," Genachowski said.

The DMCA used to contain an exemption that allowed cellphone owners to unlock their devices whenever they'd like, but last year that exemption was removed, making it technically illegal for a consumer to unlock his or her phone without consent from a carrier. It's been argued that such an exemption isn't necessary any longer due to the rise of phones that come unlocked out of the box and recent carrier policies that allow for a device to be unlocked after a set period of time.

Many consumers are still unhappy with the change to the DMCA, saying that it limits their ability to use a local SIM when traveling in order to avoid paying high roaming fees and also reduces consumer choice. While it's not clear when or if we'll see the FCC officially weigh in on this situation, I'm sure that the folks hoping to see this recent DMCA change rescinded are just happy to hear that FCC Chairman Genachowski is looking into the matter.

Via TechCrunch