If a new Democratic proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law, AT&T and Apple would be forced to begin selling unlocked iPhones.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a congressman who serves as chairman of a House telecommunications and Internet panel. His subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on the plan for Wednesday morning. The draft legislation says every mobile provider "shall offer to consumers the opportunity to purchase subsidy-free wireless customer equipment."
The emergence of the 27-page draft bill, called the Wireless Consumer Protection and Community Broadband Empowerment Act (WCPCBEA), underscores what is apparently growing concern among congressional Democrats during this session with what they seem to view as insufficiently flexible, forthcoming dealings among wireless carriers and their customers.
Both this bill, and a similar one proposed in the Senate, would direct the Federal Communications Commission to establish a number of new rules for wireless carriers. Among other things, those companies would have to give abundant disclosure to their customers about their rate plans in a "clear, plain, and conspicuous manner," breaking out the cost of everything from early termination fees to state and local taxes for the customer.
Apple, AT&T, iPhone, iPhone Unlock