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FCC to Investigate Phone Unlocking Ban

Unlocking a carrier-locked phone became illegal on January 26th in the United States.  This means that when you buy a phone on offer and is locked by the carrier to run only on its network, you can easily be prosecuted if you manipulated the software to make it possible for you to use the phone on another carrier without the express consent of the carrier you bought the phone from.  This, in plain terms, prevented mobile phone users from switching networks with phones bought on a particular carrier.

Phone Unlocking

This ban was passed into law since the ‘software used in smartphones as well as other devices remains the intellectual property of the developer’, hence users do not own the software and have no right to break any network locks put in place to prevent the use of the said software with other networks.

FCC is now going to look at the ban and have a closer look at any harmful effects that this unfortunate restriction is have on competitors, future innovations and most importantly, consumers.  This follows consumers’ argument that once they have paid for a handset, the software that comes with it becomes their property and they should be free to make any changes they deem fit to make the smartphones or other devices more productive to them.  It is not clear why FCC has waited for so long to initialize ‘investigation’ as to what effects the ban may have on concerned parties.

This controversial law was a big issue the time it was passed, with most consumers pointing out that it was unfair to take the decision whether to unlock a device or not from their hands, considering that they have to pay for the hardware and software of the device.  On the flipside, the law may be difficult to enforce with the technology we have at the moment especially since a number of carriers offer unlocked handsets.

FCC does not seem to be sure whether the regulator can actually do anything to influence the passing of the law or if it will choose to just accept the law the way it is, since it affects a very small percentage of the users anyway.  The chairman of FCC Julius Genacheowski says:

“It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones”

Most users would rather have the option to unlock their devices or leave it the way it is and use it with their current providers remain in their hands, especially since they have to pay for the smartphone, even if on discounted prices.  The lift on the ban of unlocking smartphones may positively influence competition among carriers and result in lower pricing for consumers.

What do you think about this development?  Is FCC in a position to reverse the ban and if it could, would you rather have the ban on unlocking mobile phones be lifted or be left in its current status?

Source: The Verge

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