Alert: As of tomorrow, unlocking your phone to move carriers without your current carriers authorization will be a violation of FEDERAL LAW.
Big name carriers have always despised the fact that you can do what you want with your mobile devices. They feel the devices themselves are direct extensions of the carrier that help you advertise for them for free: as evidenced by clunky, slow carrier supplied overlays on your OS Software, and the slapping of Carrier logos on your handset as well. It has always been their way of saying "LOOK!! This is OUR phone and you can get it HERE!!". I personally DETEST this business model. Whether a PC, Mac, Smartphone, Set-Top Box, Game System or whatever other personal electronics device I pay my hard earned money for, once I pay you for it, it's MINE. I will do what I choose with it. And as many of you who know me know, that means it is getting Hacked. Every smartphone I have ever had, game console, Google device, PC, laptop, handheld, you name it. And when I have decided a carrier had taken too much from me, I just switched and took MY device with me. But not anymore on the mobile front it seems, will this be possible. Legally that is. How exactly the carriers managed to convince the US Copyright Office that hardware built by dozens of 3rd party manufacturers were "Copyrighted Property" of the carrier is beyond me. The Library of Congress reasoned that "the record clearly demonstrates that there is a wide range of alternatives from which consumers may choose in order to obtain an unlocked wireless phone". Of course their is. The primary being to pay astronomical prices for unsubsidized phones at full price.
What this means is that if you buy a new phone or tablet from a carrier, and you unlock it yourself, you are breaking the law. Previously, if you obtained a subsidized device from your carrier, decide you dislike them for any reason, you could pay the "Early Termination Charge" ($200-$350/Line for US carriers). But once you pay it, you are out of contract and can take your device to another carrier. But no longer. To the carrier, the Monthly costs of potentially $175/mth+ of having you under contract is just too lucrative to pass up.That being said, they have pushed through legislation. So with subsidized devices, the new rules essentially force you to remain dependent on your carrier by mandating adherence to an arbitrary waiting period it may have. All of this on TOP of the fact that you are bound to a 2 year contract. With the new rules. if you pay your ETF (Early Term Fees) and get out of contract, you still can't take your device with you to another carrier, until a arbitrary set period of time established by the carrier passes. This is simply a new way of carriers making it either so expensive or difficult to get away from them that you abandon the thought entirely.
I should point out that the ruling has STILL upheld protection for "Hacking" your phone by means of Rooting or Jailbreaking your phone, and also does not apply to devices purchased before tomorrow or Used ("legacy") devices. All of this simply means for sure that those people seeking unlocked handsets will simply head over to the secondhand market (Craigslist/eBay) to get them. But this also means that you will also be paying an increased amount for these devices as well, because their rarity now will fetch a premium.
It will be curious to see how stringently carriers will be about enforcing this though. Unlocks can still be performed by individuals, software and companies out there. The only real way for companies to truly enforce this would be to setup a national database of IMEI's registered to each new customer, and then to "LOCK" them to the carrier on the Database. So if you take that Blazing fast Android phone to an ATT store to get it setup, the ATT rep would have to compare your device against the database to verify it's eligibility for activation. Whetehr or not the carriers will take it to this level remains to be seen. Until then, I question if this new law will actually even stop anyone......