FCC Reversing Cellphone Unlocking Ban?

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will investigate whether the ban on unlocking cellphones has any harmful effects for consumers and competitors, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski told TechCrunch. Unlocking a phone without a carrier's permission became illegal in January when the Librarian of Congress failed to include the practice in a list of exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is updated every three years. The ban, Genachowski says, raises competition and innovation concerns. However, he acknowledged he's not sure what authority the FCC has over the issue.

What Else You Need To Know

  • Most phones are sold locked to the carrier that sells it.
  • Unlocked phones are more expensive than locked ones: e.g. the Apple Store is selling an unlocked version of the iPhone 5 for $649 while AT&T and other networks are issuing the device for as low as $199, subject to a two-year contract.
  • Unlocking a handset would allow the owner to easily switch to a carrier that offers better service or terms or use a local SIM card when abroad to avoid costly roaming charges.

Other sources

[FCC's] Genachowski isn’t sure what authority he has, but if he finds any, given the tone of the conversation, it’s likely he will exert his influence to reverse the decision - Gregory Ferenstei, TechCrunch  
It all feels a bit late in the day, frankly, especially when the FCC appears to have largely stood aside while the unlocking policy was being hammered out. - Sharif Sakr, Engadget  
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