Hold the phone: Assessing the rights of wireless handset owners and carriers

Rob Frieden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Most subscribers in the United States acquire a subsidized handset when they activate or renew wireless telephone service. In exchange for purchasing a handset below cost, these customers must commit to a two-year service term with substantial financial penalties for early termination, and they must accept carrier-imposed limitations on the use of their handsets. Wireless carriers typically lock subscriber access to one carrier and lock out or thwart unaffiliated providers from providing content, software, and applications to these handsets.Limitations on the use of wireless handsets juxtaposes with the Carter/one policy established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) forty years ago, which requires all telephone companies to allow subscribers to attach any technically compatible device. Consumers take for granted the right to attach any device to a network that is "privately beneficial without being publicly detrimental."1 Only recently have some wireless subscribers come to understand the costs of not having complete freedom to use their handsets. Technically sophisticated users have resorted to "self-help" strategies to override carrier locks at the risk of permanently disabling ("bricking") the handset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-726
Number of pages52
JournalUniversity of Pittsburgh Law Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


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