FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler hasn’t completed his first week on the job, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start laying the groundwork for future policies. In a letter to the CTIA today, the Chairman urged the wireless carrier association to reconsider its opaque and frustrating stance on cell phone unlocking. Building on groundwork between the FCC, federal government and carriers previously, the letter breaks down a five point plan that Chairman Wheeler thinks is a more consumer-friendly option:
- Provide a clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on unlocking.
- Unlock mobile wireless devices for customers, former customers, and legitimate owners when the applicable service contract, installment plan, or ETF has been fulfilled.
- Affirmatively notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking and/or automatically unlock devices when eligible, without an additional fee.
- Process unlocking requests or provide an explanation of denial within two business days.
- Unlock devices for military personnel upon deployment.
Wheeler indicates that the FCC is “anxious to work with [the CTIA]” on the proposal, but the carrier group is reluctant to budge on the third of five points regarding notifying customers when their phones can be unlocked. He says that enough time has passed, and it’s time for the CTIA to make this move towards solid policies on phone unlocking before the holiday season this year.
While this isn’t a threat by any means, it’s more than a bit strongly worded indicating that the FCC is done waiting for the carriers to get up to speed on phone unlocking. This simple five-point plan sounds drastically more consumer-friendly than what is currently being offered, so let’s hope the CTIA gets on board sooner rather than later.