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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
56,584
19,332



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Cell phone unlocking in the United States became illegal in late January for new devices, prompting a White House petition urging the government to look into the issue.

The petition on the WeThePeople platform successfully garnered the 100,000 signatures necessary for an official White House response, and the backlash over the ban also caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told TechCrunch that the FCC will investigate to determine whether or not the ban results in harmful effects for consumers. The "ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns," he said.
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. "It's something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones."
At this time it is illegal to unlock newly purchased cellular phones in the United States without express carrier permission. Devices purchased prior to January 26, 2013 may be unlocked and unlocked devices can be purchased at unsubsidized prices from cell phone carriers.

Article Link: FCC Will Investigate U.S. Mobile Phone Unlocking Ban
 

lotzosushi

macrumors 6502
Jan 10, 2007
424
381
Good, and after they unban this focus on more important issues. Priorities, government. Learn them.
 

goobot

macrumors 603
Jun 26, 2009
6,228
3,618
long island NY
How would they exactly know if the phone is new or not? Who's to say the iPhone 5 or any other phone being unlocked was older than it was? So when you really think about it, any phones already released aren't affect, tho new phones are.
 

iphone495

macrumors member
Sep 13, 2012
86
0
Perfect example of when too much government regulations can hurt the people they're there to serve.
 

aristotle

macrumors 68000
Mar 13, 2007
1,768
5
Canada
Guys, this is partly how Canadians got unlocking over a year ago. We petitioned the CRTC (canada's equivalent for the FCC) and the carriers themselves as well as Apple until someone started to finally listen.

I personally got a call back from the president of the carrier I was with at the time.

People power does work. You just have to be persistent but polite and concise. It does not hurt of offer them the ability for them to charge a small fee for the unlocking when petitioning.
 

eawmp1

macrumors 601
Feb 19, 2008
4,154
79
FL
You mean there is a chance I will have full control of a device I've paid off on full?
 

cere

macrumors 6502
Jun 3, 2008
465
52
The "ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns"

In that cases, don't locks in general raise concerns about competition?

Exactly what purpose does a lock serve? It prevents you from using your phone as you choose and nothing else. It doesn't lock you into your contract. Your contract does that.

I see locks as this:
1) Restraint of trade. A lock is explicitly intended to prevent you from using your phone with another carrier. But why is this allowed? The phone is your property. You received a discount for which you agreed to enter into a lucrative, expensive contract. The lock goes above and beyond that and says ANY usage on the phone must go through your carrier. That is restraint of trade and interference
2) Racketeering. A racket is creating a problem and then charging money to solve that problem (I'll break you legs but won't if you pay me). A locked phone means you have no choice but to roam when traveling if you want to use your own phone. That's a problem. Solution: pay your carrier their prepaid roaming packages rates.

So what new competitive problems come up by banning unlocks that don't already exist simply by allowing locks?
 

TMar

macrumors 68000
Jul 20, 2008
1,679
1
Ky
And some said that online petitions do not work!

Online petitions that can be completely ignored do not generally work. Online petitions that have to be view and addressed work. The two are not even remotely the same.
 

cere

macrumors 6502
Jun 3, 2008
465
52
Guys, this is partly how Canadians got unlocking over a year ago. We petitioned the CRTC (canada's equivalent for the FCC) and the carriers themselves as well as Apple until someone started to finally listen.

I personally got a call back from the president of the carrier I was with at the time.

People power does work. You just have to be persistent but polite and concise. It does not hurt of offer them the ability for them to charge a small fee for the unlocking when petitioning.

Unlocks have been available for years in Canada. Even iPhones unlocks have been available from Rogers and Fido for over 2 years. And that was more in response to various provinces considering or passing consumer protection legislation forcing them to do unlocks for a 'reasonable' fee at the end of term (3 year wait). CRTC was completely ineffective during the whole thing.

Charging a fee to perform the unlock is just another racket. Problem: we locked your phone. Solution: give us another $50 and we'll unlock it for you. Racket.
 

WordMasterRice

macrumors 6502a
Aug 3, 2010
734
100
Upstate NY
Good, and after they unban this focus on more important issues. Priorities, government. Learn them.

Like what? This is what the FCC is for. Believe it or not, not everyone in government all works on everything. This guy doesn't discuss cell phone plans 1 week and go fight in Afghanistan the next.
 

WannaGoMac

macrumors 68030
Feb 11, 2007
2,622
3,878
We all know why cell phones are locked even when person is under a contract with early termination fees. Not much to investigate.
 

rdlink

macrumors 68040
Nov 10, 2007
3,226
2,435
Out of the Reach of the FBI
Good, and after they unban this focus on more important issues. Priorities, government. Learn them.

What, exactly are the priorities you would have your government focus on? In fact, this is exactly the type of thing the FCC should be looking into: Undoing the harm created by a stupid decision on the part of another government agency, and anti-competitive actions on the part of carriers.
 

aristotle

macrumors 68000
Mar 13, 2007
1,768
5
Canada
Unlocks have been available for years in Canada. Even iPhones unlocks have been available from Rogers and Fido for over 2 years. And that was more in response to various provinces considering or passing consumer protection legislation forcing them to do unlocks for a 'reasonable' fee at the end of term (3 year wait). CRTC was completely ineffective during the whole thing.

Charging a fee to perform the unlock is just another racket. Problem: we locked your phone. Solution: give us another $50 and we'll unlock it for you. Racket.
Unlocks of the iPhone was not available until people started to complain about it. I started complaining about it in the fall of 2009 to the CRTC and my carrier. Your bitching and complaining on here does diddly squat.

I was on fido at the time I started to complain. Prior to 2009, there was no point for unlocks because Bell and Telus were on CDMA whereas Rogers/Fido were on GSM/HSPA. It was not until the winter Olympics in Vancouver that the other two carrier switched to HSPA to get the iPhone.

Racket or not, we got the ability to unlock for 50 bucks or less and some carriers allowed unlocks after 3 months into your contract. You were still in the contract but you could put in another sim once you landed in Japan or the US instead of paying high roaming fees.

We also got the ability to buy factory unlocked phones directly from Apple over a year before it was offered in the US.

But you go ahead and continue to focus on the negative and not bother getting involved to change things for the better. Are you sure that you are not an agent prevaricator working for the carriers to discourage consumers from feeling empowered?
 
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cere

macrumors 6502
Jun 3, 2008
465
52
Unlocks of the iPhone was not available until people started to complain about it. I started complaining about it in the fall of 2009 to the CRTC and my carrier. Your bitching and complaining on here does diddly squat.

I was on fido at the time I started to complain. Prior to 2009, there was no point for unlocks because Bell and Telus were on CDMA whereas Rogers/Fido were on GSM/HSPA. It was not until the winter Olympics in Vancouver that the other two carrier switched to HSPA to get the iPhone.

Racket or not, we got the ability to unlock for 50 bucks or less and some carriers allowed unlocks after 3 months into your contract. You were still in the contract but you could put in another sim once you landed in Japan or the US instead of paying high roaming fees.

We also got the ability to buy factory unlocked phones directly from Apple over a year before it was offered in the US.

But you go ahead and continue to focus on the negative and not bother getting involved to change things for the better. Are you sure that you are not an agent prevaricator working for the carriers to discourage consumers from feeling empowered?

Like I said, and nothing in your statement refutes, unlocks have been available in Canada for years and for iPhones for over 2 years. You may think your complaints to the CRTC did something, yet the fact is that Bell didn't start doing unlocks for iPhones until this year. Doesn't seem like your complaints to the CRTC had much effect for some years.

Complaining to the CRTC does nothing because the CRTC is very protectionist of the carriers. It is staffed and managed by former industry people. It has almost always ruled in favour of the carriers and providers over the consumers. It has NEVER implemented any policy that regulates the carriers actions with regard to locking or unlocking. In short, your fantasy that your complaints made a difference is nice, but it is factually a fantasy. It's cute.

What made a difference was pressure on the companies from their customers and provincial legislation that was and is being pushed in multiple provinces that provides some level of protection for consumers where the CRTC has continually failed to act.

As far as what steps I have taken, I've corresponded with my MPP and MP and the minister of industry. I've written the CEO's office of my carrier to let them know where I stand. And I actively participate in online discussions to ensure that people are aware of just how bogus the scheme of locking is.

But you filed an ineffective complaint with an ineffective regulator that has historically failed to regulated. Congratulations. Very industrious.

(also, the availability of unlocked iPhones was pretty much standard in all countries where more than one carrier sold the iPhone...nothing to do with the CRTC fantasy)
 

MagnusVonMagnum

macrumors 603
Jun 18, 2007
5,185
1,433
Perfect example of when too much government regulations can hurt the people they're there to serve.

Given it's the DMCA that causes the issue, it's the DMCA that should be repealed. Good luck with that, though. Corporations lobbied HARD for it and as we all well know, the rights of the corporations outweigh the needs of the many.
 

PDXoPDX

macrumors member
Sep 5, 2008
99
0
I do a fair amount of work in this area of the tech industry and a lot of people aren't aware of what exactly led to this "new" ban. Here's what happened:

The unlocking provision in place until January was an exemption to the DMCA that wasn't renewed. The FCC has no authority to change this.

Congress enacted the DMCA, a copyright law, administered by the Commissioner of Copyrights at the Library of Congress. The DMCA requires the Commissioner to hold hearings on a list of approved exemptions to DMCA §1201's anti circumvention rules (think anti DRM removal) every three years.

This last round the exemption was narrowed to apply to legacy (pre-Januray 31, 2013) phones only. There were good arguments for both sides, but since the standard is harm to users/consumers the cell phone industry group won out by saying that people can buy a wide variety of unlocked phones or ask for an unlock if their phone was subsidized and is now out of contract. You can read the whole thing for yourselves here: http://www.copyright.gov/fedreg/2012/77fr65260.pdf

An interesting end run tactic for the FCC would be to make a new rule saying that carriers would have to provide unlock codes as soon as a subsidy is paid back instead of at the end of the contract. I won't hold my breath.
 
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