A chat with the Wireless Association on cellphone unlocking

March 6, 2013

by Jerry Brito
Technology Liberation Front

I just had a very respectful, reasoned, and, most importantly, informative conversation with Derek Khanna and CTIA on Twitter. It helps clarify a lot about the debate over cellphone unlocking, and I thought I’d share it with you after the jump.

The fact is that carriers today offer a wide range of unlocked devices for sale, so you never have to worry about unlocking or breaking the law. In fact, almost all of the phones Verizon sells are always unlocked. And as far as I can tell, almost all carriers will unlock your phone, once you end your contract, if you just ask. This is all truly great for consumers.

So I don’t understand why carriers should be opposed to an unlocking DMCA exemption. (To be clear, I’m not aware of individual carriers taking positions on the matter, but their trade association did file in the most recent proceeding against the exemption.) It would be better if their customers didn’t have to ask for permission before unlocking a phone that happens to be locked—especially since carriers are willing to give that permission. And if unlocking is no big deal as long as you live up to your contractual obligations, I don’t understand why there should be limits on who can do the unlocking.

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