FCC Considering Rulemaking on Requiring Mobile Providers to Unlock Phones Within 60 Days


The agency will vote July 18 on whether to seek comment on the move.

Jake Neenan FCC Considering Rulemaking on Requiring Mobile Providers to Unlock Phones Within 60 Days Photo by Kelli McClintock used with permission

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2024 – The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote next month on a proposal to require mobile providers to unlock customers’ phones within 60 days of activation.

The proposal, announced on Thursday, would force all mobile providers to open up their devices to other networks within that time, allowing users to switch to other carriers more easily. Verizon already has to unlock phones after 60 days as part of a spectrum purchase agreement.

Generally mobile carriers lock phones to their networks for a set period of time or until the phone is paid off.

“Real competition benefits from transparency and consistency,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “That is why we are proposing clear, nationwide mobile phone unlocking rules. When you buy a phone, you should have the freedom to decide when to change service to the carrier you want and not have the device you own stuck by practices that prevent you from making that choice.”

The item will be up for a vote at the agency’s July 18 meeting. If approved, the unlocking proposal would open up a comment period in which the FCC would seek input on the move before adopting final rules.

NCTA, the cable trade association whose members Comcast and Charter provide mobile service on Verizon’s network, issued a statement in support of the FCC’s plan. 

“In recent years, cable broadband providers have expanded their offerings to include mobile service, giving Americans more choices than ever before for their wireless providers. We value the FCC’s focus on continuing to increase consumer choice in the mobile marketplace,” the group wrote.

The agency would also seek comment on whether an unlocking requirement should be limited to future contracts or applied to existing contracts, as well as how the move would affect discount phone offerings and the secondary market.

The agency has not released the text of the proposal. Draft versions of items have typically been circulated about two weeks before an FCC meeting.