Thanks to the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its Chairman Tom Wheeler, you shouldn't have too much trouble unlocking your cellphone post contract and taking it to another carrier. It's certainly legal, which was a bit of a gray area two years ago. But Wheeler and all four major wireless carriers in the U.S. came to an agreement that effective today, allows mobile phones to be unlocked upon request.
If for some reason they can't, then they must "provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan, or payment of applicable early termination fee," according to the agreement.
Image Source: Flickr (Maurizio Pesce)
Each wireless carrier is also required to make available unlocking policies on their websites, as well as let customers know when their devices are eligible to be unlocked. When a customer makes a request for that to happen, carriers are required to respond within two business days.
This is a big win for consumers who might want to bring their phone to a different carrier. However, it didn't come easy -- unlocking cellphones was actually at one point considered a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that scary piece of legislation that always seems to overstep its bounds.
There's no charge to have your phone unlocked, so long as you're still a customer. Fees for previous customers haven't been established yet.
If you're interested in unlocking your phone, here are the pages for Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.