When consumers buy a smartphone the cost is often subsidized in exchange for a two-year contact. That’s what makes smartphones seem affordable. In reality, devices like these are around 600 dollars straight from the retailer, but with that comes the luxury and flexibility of switching service whenever the consumer likes.
Subsidies can be great in theory, as they allow consumers to walk away with a brand new phone for around 200-300 dollars every couple years. And we all know how great that feeling of an upcoming upgrade is. But what’s important to recognize is that a two-year contract more than makes up for the cost of your device. So once the contract is up and you’ve paid your dues, your cell phone should essentially be “free” at last. And rightfully so!
But that hadn’t been the case up until last Friday, when President Obama officially signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, put in motion by over 114,000 American consumers. The Act calls for “making unlocking permanently legal” and adding to that excitement is President Obama’s overwhelming support for the cause. He also believes this should extend to include tablets and other devices in the near future.
“The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice so they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget,” President Obama said in a statement just last week.
But despite the significant enthusiasm, this could just be a temporary fix. The Library of Congress who has the power to review copyright exceptions, including whether consumers can unlock their smartphones in the long run, will have the ultimate say in this matter. Yet at the same time, pressure from both the president and the FCC could sway the position of the Library of Congress. And quite frankly, they did acknowledge telecommunications policy could “benefit from a review and resolution.”
On top of that, this could be redundant as far and who’s making who, do what. Back in January of this year, the FCC already put pressure on U.S. wireless carriers to address the unlock issue, which made unlocks allowable after contract expiration.
So with that being said, if anything, let’s hope this Act solidifies progress in the right direction instead of the FCC and Library of Congress running in circles!
Unlocked devices not only help heighten competition, but the environment benefits as less gadgets end up in landfills, and more people are empowered to connect in various parts of the world through device reuse. If you’re curious to see if you qualify for an unlock, here’s a closer look at the rules:
- Upon request, carriers must unlock devices for consumers who have completed their contracts.
- Upon request, carriers must unlock prepaid devices within a year of activation, subject to “reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.”
- Carriers must either notify consumers when their devices are eligible or automatically unlock them.
- The process for unlocking devices will be initiated, if not completed, within two business days of an eligible request.
- Military personnel deployed overseas will be able to unlock their devices.
Also find specific requirements for each carrier here:
So do you qualify?