The Obama administration is asking the FCC to legalize the unlocking of phones within the United States today. Further, the administration asks that no carrier be legally allowed to charge clients for unlocking phones. Further, the proposition places the burden of unlocking phones on carriers, and not on customers.
The Proposed Laws
Carriers instilled the locking of phones, so the Obama administration is asking that these same carriers take responsibility for unlocking phones at the request of a client. Carriers currently lock phones in order to prevent clients from switching to another carrier, but this is not a good reason, the administration states.
What This Means for You
If you live in the U.S., carriers will no longer be able to lock a phone if this law passes. This means that you can switch networks as you please after you have purchased a phone. In short, the new law will mean more carrier freedom, and that's always a good thing.
What About the Carriers?
Will this new law hit carrier bottom lines? It doesn't really seem like it will. Right now, carriers lock phones so that users have to switch phones if a carrier switch is also warranted. Basically, carriers make it really tough to switch to another network while using the same phone. Making the locking of phones illegal would prevent carriers from forcing customers to purchase a new phone just to make a network switch.
When the Law Will Happen
Right now, the law is still being decided on. Various sources report that the FCC is likely to go ahead with this law, and that U.S. cellphone users will likely see the law pass within a very short amount of time. If you currently have a phone with a carrier that you're not happy about, hang onto that phone. Soon, you may be able to make the switch to another carrier without the burden of being forced to purchase a new phone.
The news about the proposed law has just broke this morning, but we can expect to see more information based on this subject surface within the next few months. Right now, the FCC has not stated which side of the law the government branch is leaning towards, but the NTIA and various politicians support the new law, so you can look for more news on this topic shortly.
In the Meantime: Best Way to Switch Phones
If you do want to switch phones or carriers, the best way to do so is to get on the phone and negotiate. I know that this can be really tough to do thanks to the location of some call centers that make negotiations impossible. So, you may want to think about going to an actual carrier store or kiosk and trying out your ninja negotiation tactics there. The bottom line is this: carriers don't want to lose your business, so you should be able to get a new phone or new contract without too much fuss.