Canadian Regulators Put an End to Locked Cellphones

Locked iPhone with Keys and a Canadian flag

Canadian regulators have put a definitive end to carrier-locked cellphones in that country. Carriers in Canada will no longer be able to lock phones, and they won’t be allowed to charge customers to unlock devices already locked. The regulations go into affect on December 1st, 2017.

Locked iPhone with Keys and a Canadian flag

According to Canadian publication The Financial Post, the regulations, “will erase millions in annual revenue for carriers.” That’s because locking phones is a completely arbitrary practice designed to lock consumes to a carrier, while unlocking fees are a contrived revenue source for carriers.

Cellphone Locking in the U.S. and Elsewhere

Locking varies from country to country. Most of the European Union doesn’t allow carrier locking, for instance, nor does China or Australia. Canada, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. are notable standouts in allowing locked phones and paid-unlocks.

This is good news for Canadian consumers, but the question for those of us in the U.S. (and UK) is whether this will give our regulators the impetus to do the same.

Spoiler alert: no, it won’t. At least not in the U.S., where corporate profits have long been held to be more important than consumer protections. This is especially true for regulators like Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Brief Sidenote: There’s contrived locking and de facto locking. The latter applies to devices made for a carrier using a different network technology than its competitors. No amount of lock-related regulation will make an iPhone or Android device with a GSM modem work on a CDMA network.

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