My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: FCC and CTIA says Unlocking cellphones legal on Thursday December 12 2013 – Torch Bearing Mob Petition's President and Congress thus making CTIA blink and concede People Power

Thursday, December 19, 2013

FCC and CTIA says Unlocking cellphones legal on Thursday December 12 2013 – Torch Bearing Mob Petition's President and Congress thus making CTIA blink and concede People Power

“CTIA and these companies share the goal of ensuring that America's wireless consumers continue to benefit from the world-leading range of competitive devices and offerings they currently enjoy, and believe that these voluntary principles will enhance these consumer benefits”

CTIA, an industry trade group that represents wireless carriers in a wrote in a letter (PDF) to the FCC on Thursday December 12th 2013

The Deal is done gentle readers!

The FCC (Federal Communication Commission), after much petition by Americans and support by the Obama Administration and even Congress, has finally decided to allow Americans to unlock their smartphones as reported in “FCC, wireless carriers reach cell phone unlocking deal”, published December 12, 2013 3:14 PM PST by Dara Kerr, CNET News.

The official news story as reported in Reuters in the article “Wireless carriers, FCC agree on 'unlocking' cellphones”, published Thursday Dec 12, 2013 12:37pm EST, Reuters and the official CTIA Letter can be read here. This folks, is the ultimate example of People Power!

The FCC, as the regulators, had dialog with the CTIA, the trade group that represents the carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon Wireless, who’ve now agreed to allow unlocking of smartphones within the next 3 to 12 months under certain specific circumstances as follows:

1.      Carriers have agreed to the unlocking of some lower-end pre-paid phones along with smartphones on 2 year contracts
2.      Carriers have agreed to process or deny unlocking requests within two business days
3.      Carriers have agreed that customers' smartphones could be unlocked at the end of their contract
4.      Carriers have agreed to notify customers when they are eligible for unlocking
5.      Carriers have are allowed to charge non-customers a fee for unlocking a phone

This after the Library of Congress had deemed Unlocking of smartphones and cellphones in general to be illegal as I’d reported in my blog article entitled “Librarian of the Library of Congress makes smartphone unlocking Illegal - How Jamaica can benefit from the Safe Haven of MNP by banning unlocking of smartphones and Tablets”. This they did by not extending the 2006 and 2010 provisions within the 1998 DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) that allow.

Torch Bearing mob lit up online – People Power compels a President and Congress backs him

That got the Torch Bearing mob lit up online, with President Barack Obama voicing support as noted in “White House: You have a right to unlock your cell phone”, published March 4, 2013 10:24 AM PST by Josh Lowensohn, CNET News, especially as the Library of Congress arguments posited that cheaper cellphones that were not on contract were available, making Unlocking unnecessary.

However, many saw it as the Carriers, represented by the CTIA, banding together to protect their cash cow even after the two (2) year contract on many of these smartphones had ended as well as to prevent subscribers from jumping ship as they had a mind from Carrier to Carrier. In other words, the CTIA was using the Library of Congress to do their bidding!

That eventually got Congress involved who themselves joined with the Obama Administration to petition the FCC to make unlocking legal once more as stated in “White House petitions FCC to make cell phone unlocking legal”, published September 17, 2013 4:24 PM PDT by Steven Musil, CNET News.

Pressure came to bear on the FCC, as this was a lightning rod of controversy that resonated with many Americans who saw the Carriers as an oligopoly. Eventually FCC Chief Tom Wheeler wheeled about and made a statement in November 2013 in a letter to the CTIA pressing them to ALSO make an about face and allow unlocking as stated in “New FCC chairman presses carriers to unlock cell phone”, published November 14, 2013 5:57 PM PST by Steven Musil, CNET News.

In his letter to the CTIA, the trade body representing the Carriers, he wrote his appeal/ultimatum to the CTIA, effectively shaking the Big Stick of Regulation at them, quote: “For eight months, the FCC staff has been working with CTIA on an amendment to your Consumer Code in which this industry would address consumers' rights to unlock their mobile wireless devices once their contracts are fulfilled. Enough time has passed, and it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate”.

At that point the CTIA capitulated…..and here we are today!

FCC and CTIA Negotiate a truce – Petitions and US Govt cause CTIA to blink and concede

Thus the FCC finally took the CTIA to task about unlocking, as it was decidedly unfair to have customer who had faithfully adhered to their Carrier on a 2 year contract to not have the freedom to unlock their smartphones to take advantage of better services on another Network.

Even worse, you can’t unlock your smartphone before the 2 year contract is out to do the same. Ditto to for those Pre-paid cellphones, which may be cheaper, but STILL SIM Locked, the very same cellphones that the Library of Congress said were cheaper alternatives to smartphones and thus made unlocking pointless.

I’m still of the opinion that Unlocked phones are a bad idea as it give customers too much freedom and worse, makes it very difficult to identify a cellphone or SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) as belonging to a specific customer whenever Legal matters arise. Plus the original declaration by the Library of Congress really only affected GSM (Global System Mobile) Carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile, as Verizon and Spring are CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) Networks and as such wouldn’t really have any problems with this as their phones can only be unlocked by them!

Still, I do like the freedom of unlocked smartphones and this ruling, when the details are forthcoming over the next few months, may give a clearer picture on the way forward. It also opens up too, the idea that a CDMA cellphone can now be unlocked and used on another CDMA Network instead of the customer having to endure being on the same Network against their will, unable to take advantage of deals on another CDMA Network!

This ruling is worth noting here in Jamaica as come next year May 2014 we’ll be going MNP (Mobile Number Portability) and LNP (Landline Number Portability) at the same time and for the first time, a battle for which both Digicel and LIME are Gearing up as stated in my blog article entitled “LIME rolls out Redesigned Main Store at Carlton Crescent in a 2 Year Battle against Digicel - Digicel still dangerous with cheaper Data, the DL600 smartphone and Postpaid Digihome”.

Already this Christmas 2013, Jamaicans are showing a preference for smartphones, particularly from Samsung as well as Dual-SIM smartphones as Blackberry has gone bust as noted in my blog article entitled “Samsung Galaxy smartphones and Blackberrys are tops on Jamaican Searches according to Google Trends - Importation Guide to Selling smartphone to Jamaicans”.

With so many choices, even I’ve been compelled to buy my own unlocked smartphone from Amazon this Christmas, as I realize that I need to take advantage of the offers on both Telecom Providers once MNP and LNP comes into force by May 2014

Until then, scope out my article on Unlocking smartphones as it’s now legal as detailed in my blog article entitled “How to unlock any phone and put it on any Network - Guaranteed to unlock any Feature or Smartphone on the Chennai Express”.

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