Congress, the White House and the FCC's new chairman Tom Wheeler have all come out in favor of setting our phones free, but the telcos who can actually grant our handsets liberty have been slow to heed the governmental call. Because of that, Wheeler sent a veiled threat letter to the CTIA imploring it to amend its Consumer Code to include a policy ensuring our rights to get our phones unlocked once we're off contract. Apparently, the FCC has been working with the CTIA for eight months to craft a policy that requires telcos to:

  • provide a clear, concise and readily accessible policy on unlocking
  • unlock mobile devices for legitimate owners of those devices once their service contract has been fulfilled
  • notify customers when their devices are eligible to be unlocked and/or automatically unlock those devices for free
  • unlock devices or provide an explanation of a denial of any unlock requests within two days
  • unlock devices for military service men and women upon deployment

The two sides are in agreement with four of the five requirements, with the only sticking point being the bit about service providers having to notify us when our devices are eligible to be unlocked. Tom Wheeler, however, isn't willing to see The Wireless Association's side of things because "absent the consumer's right to be informed about unlocking eligibility, any voluntary program would be a hollow shell." Furthermore, he wants the new unlock policy put in place before the holidays this year, whether by the CTIA's voluntary or the FCC's regulatory action. Looks like we'll be getting phone freedom for Christmas this year. We like the sound of that.