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NTIA Petitions the FCC to Mandate Mobile Device Unlocking

September 17, 2013
News Media Contact
Juliana Gruenwald

WASHINGTON – Citing the need for greater competition and consumer choice in the marketplace for wireless services, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today formally petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require wireless carriers to unlock mobile phones, tablets, and other devices for use with other carriers upon request.

“Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. 

The petition requests that the FCC immediately initiate the process of setting rules that protect Americans’ investments in mobile devices by allowing them to use their equipment with any compatible network. Mobile device unlocking involves disabling or removing “locks” placed on these devices by mobile carriers that prevent them from working on another operator’s network.  The proposed rule would shift the burden associated with device unlocking onto the carriers that imposed the locks, and ensure they consistently do so in a way that is both expeditious and transparent. Removing a lock on a mobile device, however, would not affect any service agreement or contract the consumer has with a mobile provider.

Late last year, the Library of Congress eliminated an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allowed consumers to unlock new mobile phones without carrier permission. The Administration is committed to securing this choice for American consumers. NTIA’s request for FCC rulemaking on the issue grew out of the White House’s response to a We The People petition, which asked the Administration to reverse the Library of Congress decision.


About NTIA

NTIA is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues.  NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth. To find out more about NTIA, visit