Almost a year long fight and the cell phone unlocking ban is settled.
ISRI, a recent opponent of the cell phone unlocking ban, raised a glass on Tuesday as the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and wireless carries came to an agreement, allowing consumers to “unlock” their cellphones at the end of their service agreement and switch carriers using the same phone.
The deal between the FCC and phone companies will allow consumers to request the provider unlock a phone at the end of the service contract. The provider then has two days to comply.
Not to be confused with jail breaking, cell phone unlocking is the process of making a device compatible with multiple networks without sacrificing the quality of the device. The process has been controversial in recent years, as carriers want to protect their investments in subsidies received from phone manufacturers, and consumers want the ability to purchase any type of phone to use on their preferred carrier, rather than be locked into a provider.
The Library of Congress weighed in and announced this past January that unlocking carrier-subsidized devices was in violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, making the U.S. the only country where recyclers do not have the ability to unlock devices, which ultimately stands in the way of advances in the reuse of devices.
Unlocked phones are extremely valuable, which is why carriers want to protect their investments in the subsidies. However, cell phone refurbishers also want the chance to extend the life of the devices.
The unlocking of a cellphone from that point forward resulted in a hefty $500,000 fine and up to five years of jail time for first time offenders.
A win for IT asset management providers
The agreement will also apply to cell phone refurbishers, making it easier and more profitable to return reusable cell phones back into the global marketplace.
Mobile phones in the United States account for the largest quantity of used electronics, so the lift of the unlocking ban is a significant step in the right direction for the reuse and refurbishment of cell phones. Refurbished cell phones appeal to customers because they are typically remarketed as unlocked and are sold at a discounted price compared to being purchased unlocked from a carrier. Under the restrictions of the ban, consumers were only allowed to legally purchase the unlocked phones from carriers, but at steep prices.
By lifting the cell phone unlocking ban, IT asset management providers and cell phone recyclers will now be able to utilize the unlocked phones, send the devices through certified data erasure, and refurbish and remarket them in the U.S., as well as abroad.