Unlocking your phone still illegal while carriers meet "voluntary" rules As lawmakers argue, carriers have until 2015 to unlock all off-contract phones.
by Jon Brodkin June 26 2014 Ars Technica
A bill slowly working its way through Congress would once again make it legal for consumers to unlock their cellular phones so that they can be used on other carriers' networks.
While lawmakers dither, a "voluntary" agreement the carriers signed under pressure from the Federal Communications Commission is paying off for some customers, but not all.
The guarantee signed in December should force the carriers to unlock phones, albeit only when a consumer has paid off his or her contract, and in many cases not until early next year.
The bill moving through Congress is stronger because it would let consumers unlock their phones at any time, even before they've paid off their contracts. That wouldn't free consumers from having to pay their bills, but there are reasons to want an unlocked phone even while you're paying a monthly fee to your primary provider. For example, a trip overseas could be a good time to swap out a phone's SIM card and connect to a local network in order to avoid a US carrier's international data and voice charges.