The process of unlocking your iPhone became a little bit easier today in the United States. Today marks the deadline for wireless carriers to adopt the unlocking standards of the late-2013 agreement set forth by the CTIA.
The agreement is industry-wide, and mandates that carriers adhere to 6 rules including clearly posting their unlocking policies online, and offering to unlock postpaid handsets once the customer’s contract has expired.
Here are the 6 rules, as outlined by The Wireless Association:
- Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.
- Postpaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.
- Prepaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.
- Notice. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former-customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier’s website.
- Response Time. Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request.
- Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy. Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers.
Most major carriers already have many of these policies in place, but today’s deadline will force them into a standard. It’s unknown what the punishment for non-compliance is, however it doesn’t seem like that will be an issue.
The practice of unlocking essentially became illegal in 2013, when the DMCA exemption that allowed it expired. The issue has since been taken up by the Federal Communications Commission, and various folks in Washington D.C.
In August of last year, President Obama signed a bill reinstating the DMCA exemption, making it legal for cellphone owners to unlock their devices—particularly without the intervention of carriers—for at least the next three years.