In a story we've been covering for over a year, the FCC handed down a decision in Verizon's quest to gain permission to lock cellular handsets on its network.
The FCC ruled partially in Verizon's favor, and now Verizon is authorized to lock newly-activated devices for 60 days.
Here's the summary from the FCC ruling:
In order to allow Verizon to better combat identity theft and other forms of handset-related fraud, this waiver will permit Verizon to lock a customer’s handset for 60 days from the date it becomes active on Verizon’s network. We deny, however, Verizon’s request that we issue a Declaratory Ruling finding the handset unlocking rule already permits such temporary locking.
In short, Verizon is getting a waiver to allow locking for the specific purpose of combating the very real problem of identity theft and fraud. The FCC, however, rejected Verizon's request that the FCC declare that it was already authorized to temporarily lock devices under existing rules.
This means that the FCC in the future could rescind Verizon's waiver. But since identity theft and cellular device fraud are not likely to end anytime soon, this waiver will likely persist for a long time.
Additionally, the ruling states that Verizon must automatically unlock devices after the 60-day period:
After the expiration of the 60-day period, Verizon must automatically unlock the handsets at issue here regardless of whether: (1) the customer asks for the handset to be unlocked, or (2) the handset is fully paid off. Thus, at the end of the initial 60 days, the unlocking rule will operate just as it does now, and Verizon’s customers will be able to use their unlocked handsets on other technologically compatible networks. The only exception to the rule will be that Verizon will not have to automatically unlock handsets that it determines within the 60-day period to have been purchased through fraud.
Verizon said in a statement they will institute the policy "very soon."
Verizon will lock devices purchased and activated directly from Verizon, the policy will not apply to devices brought to the carrier by the customer. We are unsure if the term 'handset' refers only to smartphones, or if it will include the purchase & activation of data only devices like mobile hotspots, wireless home internet, watches, tablets, and connected car.
Those considering a Verizon device purchase in the near future should understand that the device will likely be unusable on other networks for 60 days after purchase and activation.
For all the details and background on this decision and the history of Verizon's locking policies, please see our original news story.
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