Doctor of Tech: Unlocked Cell Phones - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Doctor of Tech: Unlocked Cell Phones

We are starting a new feature blog here on Our "Doctor of Tech" will discuss issues of a technical nature from computers to phones and emerging technology and new innovations.

We welcome your input and questions for our "Doctor of Tech" and the contact information is listed below.



As of January 26th 2013 it is illegal for cell phone owners to unlock their phones. To clarify that is owners of cell phones purchased on the 26th on forward. This applies to unlocking only, not jail breaking which is still legal according to the DMCA.

What exactly is unlocking? Unlocking is the process of removing the restrictions on a cell phone that tie you to a single service provider. What action of unlocking is illegal?

It is illegal for a cell phone user to unlock their cell phone without the consent of the service carrier. Using software or going to a repair shop and having the phone unlocked is against the law. This doesn't mean your new phone is permanently tied to the service you started with, you can still unlock your phone through your carrier.

Each carrier has certain requirements or service fees to unlock your phone legally. So contact your carrier to find out exactly how you can accomplish that process, or consider buying a phone that comes unlocked from the manufacturer.

Why would you want an unlocked phone? There are several advantages to having an unlocked phone, the largest advantage is the ability to change services while retaining your device. Are you unhappy with your current provider? With an unlocked phone you can purchase a SIM card from a new provider and still use your original phone. No need to transfer contacts, music, games and so on. Keep in mind that if you have a contract you are still required to fulfill those obligations.

The service change advantage is also a benefit for those traveling outside the United States, by purchasing a SIM card from a local prepaid service travelers can bypass expensive international fees.

If unlocking seems like something you would be interested in and you would rather avoid fines for an illegal device, contact your service provider to find out which options are available to you.

If you have any questions for the News Channel 5 Doctor of Tech, email them to Subject line: Doctor of Tech.


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