FCC Proposes New Rules To Further "Unlock" Cellphones

Sick of boring handsets with crippled features? So is FCC chairman Kevin Martin. He’s proposing “sweeping new rules” that would apply to the 700mhz spectrum that is soon to be vacated as television goes digital. What will the new rules be?

Under Martin’s proposal, to be circulated in the agency as early as Tuesday, mobile services in these airwaves would have to allow consumer choice.

“Whoever wins this spectrum has to provide … truly open broadband network – one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers,” Martin said in an interview Monday.

What this would mean in practice: “You can use any wireless device and download any mobile broadband application, with no restrictions,” Martin explained. The only exceptions would be software that is illegal or could harm a network.

The rules would only apply to devices which use the new spectrum, but could have repercussions throughout the industry. Wouldn’t it be nice if your phone wasn’t tied to a carrier? That way if you switch… or they drop you for complaining too much… you wouldn’t have to throw your phone away. You could simply switch to any carrier with a compatible network.

New rules could rock wireless world
[USA Today] (Thanks, Nathan!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dbeahn says:

    As the Brits say:
    “‘Bout bloody time…”

  2. K-Bo says:

    Doubt it will stick, I’m sure cell carriers are throwing money all around Washington as we speak to keep this from happening.

  3. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    I wouldn’t believe anything Kevin Martin says.

    He’s the guy undoing network neutrality because, as you know, the internet has been a terrible failure and Verizon and TimeWarner are in desperate need of more corporate welfare.

    Usually when Martin says “this will be good for you” the “you” is “not you” or is also known as “you, the giant corporation.”

  4. Wormfather says:

    @K-Bo: But the FCC is one of those god like arms of the govenment that can just say do something and it has to be done.

  5. enm4r says:

    I really see this as a necessary change in the industry. But I think consumers need to get over the fact that they all want a free phone every 2 years. The stats were thrown around a few weeks ago with the whole iPhone nonsense, something like 80% of consumers will/want/will only spend less than $100 on a phone.

    This has to be something that carriers/consumers can meet in the middle on. Phones should NOT be subsidized, contracts should not be mandatory, and phones should be unlocked. In this sort of market, phone prices will naturally decline.

    This also avoids the fact that we’re working with both CDMA/GSM nonsense, but I’ll take one step at a time.

  6. K-Bo says:

    Doesn’t make them immune to being bribed. In fact, seems more likely to me, since there are apparently very few checks on their power.

  7. roamer1 says:

    Like I said on another forum: Verizon Wireless need not apply. :p

    (That said, the 700 MHz spectrum will likely go to new data-focused companies and not so much the old-school “cellular”/”PCS” companies…and that’s a good thing.)

  8. amorde says:

    I can understand carriers locking your phone for subsidizing it during the first year. However, after the contract expires, they should be forced to unlock the phone for you if you ask. Since they already recoup the original investment through the service for the first year. 2 years contracts are almost indenture servitude.

  9. yg17 says:

    @amorde: Not sure what ATT’s policy is, but T-Mobile will unlock their phones if you’ve been with them for 90 days and your account is in good standing. So yes, I got my phone unlocked only 3 months into a 2 year contract.

    Thanks to the crappiness of CDMA, unlocking is a moot point with Verizon and Sprint, they won’t allow phones not sold and branded by them onto their network anyways

  10. Ryan Duff says:

    “The only exceptions would be software that is illegal or could harm a network.”

    They currently “lock” the phones to prevent things from being done that “harm the network.” That’s why you can’t do certain things, or only use their proprietary application to browse the net or watch videos.

    With that exception in there, there would be no change. Maybe pushing for innovation, but unlocked phones? There’s no way that’d happen!

  11. bnosach says:

    I would love to see my T-Mobile phone working with Google Maps and Opera Mini software, but due the stupidity, T-Mobile blocks any Java-based application from network access (on the majority of cellphones). Nice job, T-Mobile.

    There hasn’t been any need for improvement in the past 5 or so years, right? I guess that’s how you act when you’re among 4 monopolists on the market.

  12. Scazza says:

    Umm, this kinda dosn’t make sense… Phones that use CDMA are not compatible with GSM networks and vice versa… These guys want to make all these phones dual technology will just make the phone companies scoff their noses and stick with traditional technology thanks to the cost and complexity of such devices…

  13. rekoil says:

    @Scazza: Yes, there are two competing technologies, but four major companies. There’s no technical reason (beyond the phone locks) you can’t use an AT&T phone on T-Mobiles network, or a Sprint phone on Verizon’s, or vice versa. Don’t forget the smaller carriers too such as AllTel or the MVNOs such as Virgin and Helio – as long as the standards are compatible you should be able to use any phone on any network.

  14. asplodzor says:

    @rekoil: As I understand it, you’re correct about strictly making phone calls, but Verizon and Sprint both have two very different ways of dealing with data (and that includes text messaging). This appears to be the same reason that an ‘unlocked’ CDMA phone will work fine for voice on Cricket, but good luck with texting and data.

  15. obbie says:

    Glad there is someone on our side…

  16. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    @enm4r: But I think consumers need to get over the fact that they all want a free phone every 2 years. The stats were thrown around a few weeks ago with the whole iPhone nonsense, something like 80% of consumers will/want/will only spend less than $100 on a phone.

    I bought my first phone ever a few months ago, and it was over $200. It’s already acting up! I don’t think people would care to buy a phone if it would last more than ten minutes. They make phones crappy so we have to buy new ones.

    Personally, I think buying a phone was a stupid idea now. I don’t think my next phone will be paid for by me. Or if it is, it’ll be damn cheap.

  17. Greeper says:

    OBBIE– Kevin Martin “may be on our side” on this one, but he is a big government hack who spends most of his day worrying about people talking too much about farts or peepee. His number one goal is to appease the far religious right and their agenda of prohibiting people form talking like normal humans on the radio or tv. Dopn’t give him too much credit. I’m shocked and pleased he’s torn himself away from micromanaging content long enough to do something that is actually helpful. BUt in the end he’s just like all the other Bush appointees, religious wackos with hidden agendas.

  18. Scott says:

    Sounds like Mr. Martin has been listening to Tim Wu.

    It’s interesting that everyone is talking about the existing telcos and not any new providers. I’d like to see this be an opening for a new carrier. It would require a lot of cash but maybe an tech company with lots of money will make a bid. Google, I’m looking in your direction.

  19. CaptainRoin says:

    @WhatsMyNameAgain: I agree. I wold definitely spend a lot more on a phone if it would last a few years. Just to compare to something else I use every day, I’ve had my iPod longer than my razr and I’ll give you 1 guess which one works like poo and which is basically brand new (hint: the razr sucks).

  20. skechada says:

    I would love to just find a phone that I like online, and be able to purcahse it, instead of searching each carrier’s websites for “their” phones.

    If google was an ISP I’d terminate my current account today. Or start calling customer service dozens of times until they dropped me… ;)

  21. I love it…