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5:00pm December 23, 2013

AT&T, Verizon Among Carriers Committed to Mobile Unlocking

cell-phone-unlocking

In what some might deem an unprecedented move by five of the largest wireless carriers in the country, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon have committed to adopting a set of voluntary principles for unlocking cellular and smartphone devices.

Their announcement comes approximately ten and a half months after a We the People petition was created asking the Obama Administration to intervene in a decision by the Librarian of Congress that sought to exclude cell phone unlocking from the exceptions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  The authors of the petition claimed that the ability to unlock phones would help protect consumers from exorbitant fees paid for cellular roaming or purchasing a new cellular or smartphone device incident to a change in mobile carrier.  More than 114,000 people signed on in support of the petition, and the White House responded by calling on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, Congress, and the telecommunications industry to come up with market and legislative fixes to the problem.

After much discussion within the companies and with their trade association, CTIA-The Wireless Association, the voluntary industry principles were created and are set to be included in CTIA’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service, a living policy that is updated regularly to reflect consumer needs and interests in our changing digital economy.

The principles, which are expected to be implemented within three and twelve months of their adoption, provide that, upon request, carriers will:

  1. Post on their websites a “clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.”
  2. Unlock, or provide information on how to unlock, mobile devices for “customers and former customers in good standing, and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.
  3. Unlock “prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than on year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.”
  4. Notify consumers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the appropriate time, or do so automatically, at no extra charge.
  5. Within two days of request, initiate the unlocking process or provide notice as to why unlocking cannot be accomplished.
  6. Unlock “mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers.”
  7. “Reserve the right to decline an unlock request if they have a reasonable basis to believe the request is fraudulent or the device is stolen.”

While unlocking may provide consumers added benefits and promote new levels of competition between carriers, consumers should not assume that an unlocked phone is an interoperable phone.  Mobile devices are created with the technical specifications of the originating network in mind, and once unlocked and transferred to another network, some of the specifications enjoyed on one network may not transfer to the other. For instance, “an unlocked device may support voice services by not data services when activated on a different network.”

In announcing the voluntary principles, Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA, explained that his organization and “these companies share the goal of ensuring that America’s wireless consumers continue to benefit from the world-leading range of competitive devices and offerings they currently enjoy, and believe that these voluntary principles will enhance these consumer benefits.”



About the Author

Kristal High
Kristal Lauren High co-founded and serves as Editor in Chief of Politic365. She also operates her own communications and creative engagement company. Prior to launching the publication, Kristal developed an expertise in broadband adoption among minority, low-income and underserved populations through her work with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ Media & Technology Institute. Throughout her career, Kristal has worked with national civil rights and civic associations, business leaders, minority elected officials, and Fortune 500 brands on an array of issues pertaining to the leveraged use of the Internet for online coalition building, stakeholder outreach, political advocacy and multimedia production. For her efforts in online advocacy and web publishing, Kristal received the New York Urban League Young Professionals Digital Renaissance Award and the NAACP’s Leadership 500 Chairman’s Leadership Award. She was also named to the Digital Sisterhood Network’s Top 100 Digital Sisters of the Year and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Black Broadcaster’s Association. Kristal is also the recipient of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Excellence in Communications award, and has been named to two top 40 Under 40 lists - the Lawyers of Color Hot List and the National Bar Association's/IMPACT Nation's Best Advocates list.




 
 

 
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4 Comments


  1. […] AT&T, Verizon Among Carriers Committed to Mobile Unlocking While unlocking may provide consumers added benefits and promote new levels of competition between carriers, consumers should not assume that an unlocked phone is an interoperable phone. Mobile devices are created with the technical specifications of … Read more on Politic365 […]


  2. […] AT&T, Verizon Among Carriers Committed to Mobile Unlocking In what some might deem an unprecedented move by five of the largest wireless carriers in the country, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon have committed to adopting a set of voluntary principles for unlocking cellular and smartphone devices. Read more on Politic365 […]


  3. […] when a customer tries to switch carriers. The industry appears to be caving to public pressure on unlocking, so that’s a little bit of good news. But the FCC clearly needs to rouse itself and crack down on […]


  4. […] when a customer tries to switch carriers. The industry appears to be caving to public pressure on unlocking, so that’s a little bit of good news. But the FCC clearly needs to rouse itself and crack […]



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