Friday, November 15, 2013
FCC Urges wireless carriers To Agree on Phone Unlocking Policy
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday demanded that wireless providers voluntarily agree on the rights of consumers to unlock mobile devices once contracts
In a letter to CTIA President Steve Largent on Thursday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urged the industry to adopt the new unlocking policy within weeks, before the holiday shopping season.
The commission has indicated that any such policy must contain
five parts: (a) provide a clear, concise, and readily
accessible policy on unlocking; (b) unlock mobile wireless
devices for customers, former customers, and legitimate owners
when the applicable service contract, installment plan, or ETF
has been fulfilled; (c) affirmatively notify customers when
their devices are eligible for unlocking and/or automatically
unlock devices when eligible, without an additional fee; (d)
process unlocking requests or provide an explanation of denial
within two business days; and (e) unlock devices for military
personnel upon deployment.
CTIA and the FCC are in agreement on all but the third item
regarding consumer notification.
"Absent the consumer's right to be informed about unlocking
eligibility, any voluntary program would be a hollow shell. We
are anxious to work with you and your members to resolve this
matter expeditiously," Steve Largent wrote in the letter.
He urged the industry to act voluntarily before the December
holiday season or for the FCC to regulate.
In a statement on Thursday, CTIA's vice president for
regulatory affairs, Scott Bergmann, said the trade association
would continue discussions with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and
that consumers now can take advantage of a "wide variety" of
unlocked devices and "liberal" unlocking policies.
He added that not all devices can be switched from one provider
to another because of their technological or engineering
Opponents of unlocking have argued that the phones should be
"locked," or prevented from moving freely across networks,
because of the subsidies that carriers such as AT&T Inc, Verizon Wireless and Sprint provide to consumers when they buy the phones.
Smartphone App Gauges Speed of Networks
Seperately, the The Federal Communications Commission on
Thursday released its first smartphone app, a free program that
allows consumers to measure the broadband speed they are
getting on their mobile devices and to determine whether it is
as fast as wireless companies say.
The app, F.C.C. Speed Test, works only on smartphones that run
the Android operating system, but the commission is working on
an iPhone version, which it expects to be ready by the end of
January. The app provides information on upload and download
speeds and on how efficiently data is transmitted.
The app also will allow the commission to aggregate data about
broadband speeds from consumers across the country. It will use
the data to create an interactive map, giving consumers a tool
to use in comparison shopping rather than relying on wireless
The app will run periodically in the background on a consumer's
phone, automatically performing tests when a user is not
otherwise using the phone.
F.C.C. officials stressed that the software would not collect
any personal or uniquely identifiable information, and that it
would release information only after the data was analyzed.