The unlocking of cellphones has been a pretty hot topic throughout 2013. It all started in January when a change with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) made unlocking a phone without your carrier's permission illegal, and since then we've seen the FCC chairman, the president and thousands of consumers voice their concern about the problem. It sounds like we may finally be near a solution, though, as a new report says that the FCC and carriers are close to an agreement on the matter.
According to Reuters, the U.S. operators and the FCC are finishing up a deal that will make it easier for consumers to unlock their handsets. The deal will reportedly require operators to notify their customers when they can unlock a device and would also set a two-day deadline for carriers to approve or deny unlock requests. It's said that the final issues that need to be worked out relate to how quickly these new unlock policies will be rolled out, ways that the phones can be kept off of the black market and whether or not prepaid phones will be covered by the new rules.
I'll have to wait until this new deal between the carriers and FCC is official before making any judgments about it, but so far this deal sounds like a nice improvement over the current unlocking situation. While customers will still need to get approval from a carrier to get their device unlocked, these new rules should make the unlocking process more uniform across all of the operators and make it easier for a customer to know when he or she can free their phone from its shackles. The topic of mobile device unlocking is on the agenda for an FCC Open Meeting that will take place at 2:30 p.m. today, so here's to hoping that we get some official word on these new rules then.
UPDATE: An agreement between the FCC and the big five U.S. carriers has officially been reached. The CTIA announced this afternoon that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless have all committed to following a set of standards for unlocking eligible phones and tablets. That set of principles include: