from the freeeeedom! dept.
Two Soylentils wrote in with news that US carriers must now unlock phones upon request, with some restrictions.
Wireless Carriers Must Now Unlock Your Phone When Your Contract is Fulfilled
Andrew Moore-Crispin reports that beginning this week, as result of an agreement major wireless carriers made with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in late 2013, wireless carriers in the US must unlock your phone as soon as a contract term is fulfilled if asked to do so unless a phone is connected in some way to an account that owes the carrier money. Carriers must also post unlocking policies on their websites (here are links for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile), provide notice to customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking, respond to unlock requests within two business days, and unlock devices for deployed military personnel. So why unlock your phone? Unlocking a phone allows it to be used on any compatible network, regardless of carrier which could result in significant savings. Or you could go with an MVNO, stay on the same network, and pay much less for the same cellular service.
February 11, 2015: Smartphone Independence Day in USA
The Register reports
American mobile owners can now legally unlock their smartphones again from their network carriers--provided you've finished paying for them.
Phone unlocking, allowing it to subscribe to a different network, was perfectly legal in the US until 2012, when the practice was banned in a review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by the Librarian of Congress. The surprise shift outlawed the legal practice and set the internet aflutter.
An online petition to the White House garnered at least 100,000 signatures. President Obama urged Congress to act on the matter, saying his hands were tied.
18 months later the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was passed and signed by the President, but by that time the telcos had already agreed to unlocking privately.
From today all phones, as well as tablets, can be instructed to subscribe to any network, provided the device is compatible with the telco's cell towers.
[...]the new rules are important because they allow resellers to unlock handsets before sales, meaning customers will get more handsets to choose from and--[we hope]--some cheaper deals as well.
In their page What you need to know about the new phone unlocking rules, Greenbot notes
If you're already a customer of the carrier you're contacting, you won't have to pay a thing, but if you're a former customer, you'll probably have to pay a minor fee of some sort. So get your phone unlocked BEFORE you cancel service!
Military personnel can have their phones unlocked for free as long as they have proof of deployment orders, regardless if they're currently a customer or not.