Recently, the Commerce department formally petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a ruling on the subject of unlocking mobile phones. The FCC is still in deliberation, but President Obama’s administration has made its opinion clear, issuing a statement in support of consumers’ right to unlocked devices and the ability to move between cellular carriers.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) strongly endorsed the unlocking of phones in an “expeditious and transparent manner.” NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling laid the administration’s stance down in the statement:
“Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle,”
The main issue is an October ruling by the Library of Congress’s (LOC) Copyright Office that allowed consumers a 90 day period to unlock their phones before it became illegal this January. If the FCC rules otherwise, the LOC’s decision would be reversed
The full text of the NTIA statement follows below:
September 17, 2013
WASHINGTON – Citing the need for greater competition and consumer choice in the marketplace for wireless services, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today formally petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require wireless carriers to unlock mobile phones, tablets, and other devices for use with other carriers upon request.
“Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling.
The petition requests that the FCC immediately initiate the process of setting rules that protect Americans’ investments in mobile devices by allowing them to use their equipment with any compatible network. Mobile device unlocking involves disabling or removing “locks” placed on these devices by mobile carriers that prevent them from working on another operator’s network. The proposed rule would shift the burden associated with device unlocking onto the carriers that imposed the locks, and ensure they consistently do so in a way that is both expeditious and transparent. Removing a lock on a mobile device, however, would not affect any service agreement or contract the consumer has with a mobile provider.
Late last year, the Library of Congress eliminated an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allowed consumers to unlock new mobile phones without carrier permission. The Administration is committed to securing this choice for American consumers. NTIA’s request for FCC rulemaking on the issue grew out of the White House’s response to a We The People petition, which asked the Administration to reverse the Library of Congress decision.
NTIA is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth. To find out more about NTIA, visit www.ntia.doc.gov.