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New FCC chairman tells wireless carriers to unlock cell phones
In one of his first days on the job, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has asked the CTIA Wireless Association to move quickly toward unlocking phones for consumers.
When a phone is unlocked, it can be used with any wireless carrier. It became illegal for consumers to unlock phones on their own earlier this year because of a ruling by the Librarian of Congress, who is responsible for handing out exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
In practice, carriers are often willing to unlock phones, particularly when the customer has finished paying off his or her contract. But the ban potentially creates problems for customers when they want to travel overseas without paying huge roaming fees or if their carrier refuses to unlock their phone. Wheeler said in his confirmation hearing in June that he wants to end the ban.