The Federal Communications Commission will investigate a recent ban on the practice of consumers “unlocking” their mobile phones.
The ban went into effect in late January and keeps consumers from unlocking their phones without the permission of the carrier from whom they purchased the device. Previously, consumers unlocked their phones in order to use the device with a different carrier. Now, they face possible legal action if they unlock their device without carrier permission.
The “ban raises competition concerns,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told TechCrunch. “It raises innovation concerns.”
It’s unclear, however, if the FCC, an executive agency, can do anything about the ban, which was put in place by Congress.
The ban falls under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but exceptions for unlocking phones were made in 2006 and 2010. After prodding by the Copyright Office, the Librarian of Congress decided not to grant another exception for phone unlocking last year, saying users who want an unlocked phone can either buy one or ask their carrier for permission.
Regardless, Genachowski said the FCC will look into the matter.
“It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones,” he said, according to the report.