An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired:In the U.S., a complicated combination of corporate interests and pre-smartphone era legislation has resulted in more than two decades of back and forth about the legality of phone locking. It's looking like that battle could ramp up again next year. The transition to a Biden administration could shake up the regulatory body that governs these rules. The timing also coincides with a congressional proceeding that takes place every three years to determine what tweaks should be made to digital rights laws. 2021 could be the year of the truly unlocked phone. For some activists, it's a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel.

[H]ow could carriers be forced to provide phones that are unlocked by default? There are a couple of promising avenues, though neither are a given. The "agenda" here meaning something to be decided by a regulating body. In the UK, the regulator Ofcom made that call. The US Ofcom equivalent is the Federal Communications Commission. Under its current leadership of Trump appointee Ajit Pai, the FCC has been staunchly pro-business, passing legislation like the repeal of net neutrality at the behest of companies like AT&T. "Getting this done in an Ajit Pai FCC would be extremely difficult and very unlikely, given how friendly that FCC has been toward private companies and broadband providers," Sheehan says. "Whether or not that could happen in a Biden administration, we don't know. I think it would be much more possible."

Another route would be to take the problem back to its source: Section 1201 itself. Every three years, the US Library of Congress and Copyright Office hold a rulemaking proceeding that takes public comment. It's a chance for advocates to make their case for amending Section 1201, assuming they can afford the legal fees necessitated by such an involved, drawn out process. It's a less overtly political process, as the key decisionmakers at the two institutions don't come and go with each presidential administration like they usually do at the FCC. These sessions have already yielded positive outcomes for fans of repairability, like an exemption that took effect in 2016 that made it legal to hack car computers and other devices. The next proceeding is currently underway. If citizens want to urge the government to amend Section 1201, the first round of comments are required to be in by December 14. Responses and additional proposals will go back and forth through the spring of 2021, until the Copyright Office ultimately decides which changes to implement. Both Sheehan and Wiens are working with other advocates to make their case for a future of unlockability.

The US Could Soon Ban the Selling of Carrier-Locked Phones (