It’s About to Get Easier to Unlock Your Phone

Deal between FCC and wireless carriers

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Consumers will soon find it easier to “unlock” their cell phones and use them across different wireless carriers, a federal regulator said Thursday.

The Federal Communication Commission said it had reached a deal with wireless carriers to allow phones purchased with one carrier to be more easily used on a competing company’s network, Reuters reports. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was expected to provide more details about the agreement later on Thursday.

American cell phone companies lock mobile phones to their networks to push customers to renew their service contracts. Customers used to be able to move their phones over to other carriers when their contracts expired, but a decision earlier this year from the Library of Congress, which manages and reviews copyright laws, made the practice illegal unless customers have their providers’ consent.

The new agreement will allow customers to unlock their phones at the end of their contracts. Citing unnamed sources, Reuters reports that, under the deal, wireless carriers will have to advise customers when they are eligible to move their phones over to other networks and process customer unlocking requests within two business days.