Unlocking -- altering the software on a carrier-issued smartphone top allow it to be used on a competitor's network -- was deemed a copyright violation in a ruling from the Library of Congress last year.
But the FCC has weighed in on the side of consumers, Bloomberg Business reported Thursday.
"It is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate," Tom Wheeler, the Democratic chairman of the agency, said in a letter today to Steve Largent, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association. Wheeler suggested the carriers have a policy in place "before the December holiday season."
Members of the Washington-based industry group include the four largest U.S. carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint and T-Mobile.
"We look forward to continuing discussions under Chairman Wheeler's leadership," Scott Bergmann, CTIA vice president for regulatory affairs, said in an e-mailed statement, adding that the association supports an unlocking bill currently before Congress.