FCC Might Investigate Whether Or Not Ban On Cell Phone Unlocking Should Have Been Allowed

from the obama-administration-vs.-obama-administration dept

This one is so odd I almost wonder if there were some key points lost in translation (not in language, but from "policy wonk speak" to "journalist speak"). We've talked plenty about the recent move by the Librarian of Congress not to renew the DMCA exemption for unlocking your mobile phone. That story kicked up a lot of anger and protests from people. And while there has been some talk of trying to convince the administration to change the ruling, the general sense seemed to be that the issue would just wait for the review period, which happens ever three years.

However, Greg Ferenstein at TechCrunch is reporting that FCC boss Julius Genachowski claimed that not only were there "concerns" about the ruling, but also that the FCC was going to investigate the matter:
The "ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns."
Of course, he also admitted that he might not have any actual authority over this particular issue (he doesn't). As great as it would be for some other agency within the same administration to come out and counter another agency concerning this issue, that still seems unlikely. The FCC's mandate almost certainly doesn't stretch so far as to permit unlocked phones, but it sounds like Genachowski is interested in seeing if he can find some way to find that authority somewhere, somehow.
Genachowski isn't sure what authority he has, but if he finds any, given the tone of the conversation, it's likely he will exert his influence to reverse the decision. "It's something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones."
In the end, I can't see how the FCC has a legitimate say in the matter, even if I agree with their stance that consumers should be able to unlock their phones.

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  1. icon
    AndyD273 (profile), 4 Mar 2013 @ 9:07am

    Contracts already protect carriers without unlocking

    Why do they need to lock the phones in the first place? If I buy it unsubsidized I don't need a contract and can request to have it unlocked from the start.

    If I buy it subsidized I have to sign a contract saying that I'll stick with them for a couple years, with penalties if I jump carriers early.

    Locking the phones is a waste of resources at best and anti competitive at worst.

    The only good thing I can say about it is that if I go through the hassle of getting it unlocked after the contract is up, I can resell it for more than the guy that didn't get it unlocked, and probably sell it faster too due to more demand for phones that let you do what you want.

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