CRTC Rules Against Carrier Locking, Unlocking Fees

Lisa Cumming, Vice:

Now, the age of locked-to-carrier phones is ending in Canada: if you buy your phone, you’ll be able to use it wherever you want, full stop.

As of Dec. 1, carriers can no longer charge an “unlocking fee” to unlock your phone. Moreover, all newly purchased devices must be unlocked from the get-go, according to new regulations from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the federal telecommunications regulator, which came out on Thursday. Last year, telecoms made more than $37 million charging people to unlock their devices, according to a CBC report.

This is an especially important decision in Canada’s oligopolic carrier market. Unfortunately, there are no regulations from the CRTC that prevent carriers from raising their prices to compensate, which is likely what will happen. Because of Canada’s geography and various laws designed to make sure adequate cellular access is not confined to major cities, there’s very little chance this situation will change while the infrastructure is privately owned and operated. Therefore, the CRTC ought to consider proposals to nationalize cellular infrastructure and allow carriers to resell it.