U.S. Carriers Must Now Unlock Cell Phones for Free

Switching wireless carriers has just become a whole lot easier because the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, in compliance with President Barack ObamaEUs mandate, has issued a new code that requires most U.S. carriers to unlock the devices for free.

In August, Obama signed a bill into law forcing carriers to unlock cell phones. Wednesday marked the deadline for compliance. The idea, as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler put it, is to EUgive consumers the freedom to switch between carriers without having to purchase a new cellphone, allowing them to choose the mobile service plans that fits their specific needs and budget.EU

Six Provisions You Need To Know

There are two key provisions the agreement carriers made with the FCC: the postpaid unlocking policy and the prepaid unlocking policy.

Under the postpaid unlocking policy, carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information for consumers, former customers in good standing and individual owners who want to unlock their eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contracts, device financing plans, or payment of applicable early termination fees, upon request.

Under the prepaid unlocking policy, carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

Other provisions call for carriers to post clear, concise disclosures about mobile wireless device unlocking; clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock them remotely at the appropriate times; unlock eligible devices within two business days after receiving the requests; and unlock mobile devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers.

Does it Even Matter?

We caught up with Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, to get his reaction on how this will play out in the marketplace. He gave us...

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