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Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) posted a document detailing a major proposed change to wireless carriers and device unlock policies. The plan was one of five items posted as part of the July 2024 Open Meeting Agenda.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed the agency require wireless carriers to comply with unlocking customers’ mobile devices within 60 days of activation. The intent is to increase competition by allowing customers more freedom and flexibility to switch carriers. With a compatible device, customers are empowered to make the call when it suits them to go to a carrier that best fits their immediate needs.

Said Rosenworcel, “Real competition benefits from tansparency and consistency… That is why we are proposing clear, nationwide mobile phone unlocking rules. When you buy a phone, you should have the freedom to decide when to change service to the carrier you want and not have the device you own stuck by practices that prevent you from making that choice.”

A screenshot of the full release statement. Source

The FCC will soon be open for public comment on the matter with a subsequent vote on July 18th. They want more information on how this impacts financial plans, comparisons from postpaid to prepaid devices, even if this will benefits smaller companies like MVNOs. They want to even hear out impacts to device reselling and how an increased number of phones in the secondary market will be impacted.

A Small Step In The Right Direction?

Carriers continue to make incremental changes that stymie customer choice. More notably was T-Mobile’s recent change to stop recurring credits for devices that are paid off early, locking customers into lengthy financing plans if they want to get the best deals. The magenta carrier also caught the FCC’s eye recently by increasing plan rates and was forced to change Price Lock advertising as well.

It is important to note that unlocking a device is a step in the right direction. While contracts themselves are a thing of the past, financing plans are the new normal. An unlocked device does not absolve a customer of what they owe on a device. Steep financial penalties could still apply if someone decided to jump ship. However, a device unlocking requirement for carriers will still eliminate what can be a painful step for customers in today’s wireless space.

You can view the release in its entirety here. How do you see this helping wireless customers? Let us know if this accomplishes more competition and choice in the comments below.

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