Earlier this year a ruling by the Library of Congress made it illegal for anyone in the US to unlock their cellphones. Basically what this does is that it ties the phone to a particular carrier, and if the carrier refuses your request to unlock it, you will not be able to unlock it yourself through other methods as it would be considered illegal. However the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has filed a formal petition with the FCC asking that they make a ruling that would require carriers to unlock cellphones upon request.
The goal behind unlocking is so that the phone can be used on other networks, such as when traveling overseas and purchasing a local SIM card would be a cheaper alternative compared to international roaming. Unlocking does not free the user of any contracts they are obligated to and the NTIA has pointed that out. According to Lawrence E. Strickling, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, “Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle.”
The FCC has yet to respond to the NTIA’s formal petition.