Earlier this year, Verizon announced that it was going to ask the FCC for an exemption regarding the restriction placed on its purchase of the 700MHz block back in 2008, preventing it from SIM-locking phones it sold. Verizon wanted to impose a new 60-day carrier lock on its devices, claiming that it would help the carrier fight fraud. Whether you believe that argument or not doesn't matter now, as the FCC has granted Verizon its blessing.

The full document giving Verizon its new phone-locking right is a mere six pages — incredibly short by FCC standards — and it explicitly grants the US carrier a partial waiver that "will permit Verizon to lock a customer’s handset for 60 days from the date it becomes active on Verizon’s network."

Following that 60-day period, Verizon is required to issue an automatic unlock in all cases, whether the customer asks for it or not, excluding cases of demonstrated fraud:

"After the expiration of the 60-day period, Verizon must automatically unlock the handsets at issue here regardless of whether: (1) the customer asks for the handset to be unlocked, or (2) the handset is fully paid off. Thus, at the end of the initial 60 days, the unlocking rule will operate just as it does now, and Verizon’s customers will be able to use their unlocked handsets on other technologically compatible networks. The only exception to the rule will be that Verizon will not have to automatically unlock handsets that it determines within the 60-day period to have been purchased through fraud."

For a bit of necessary context, back in 2008 Google participated in the FCC's auction for the then-new 700MHz band, helping to drive the price high enough that the victor, Verizon, was forced to adhere to a so-called "open platform" rule which Google requested as part of the auction. The rule would require the owner of the spectrum explicitly not "configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers' networks" (i.e., it prevented Verizon from SIM-locking its phones for around a decade). This unique provision applied only to Verizon as a result of its purchase of the applicable 700MHz spectrum, other US carriers were unaffected and could continue to lock their devices.

Verizon's argument for bringing back SIM locking revolved around fraud: Although ostensibly the company should be able to report a given IMEI as stolen, blacklisting the device at other carriers, it argued that fraudulent purchases constituted a significant enough harm to the company and consumers that a 60-day lock would serve to mitigate it such issues. Regardless of what one might think of that argument, it seems the contemporary, big-business-friendly FCC is altering the deal in Verizon's favor. (Although technically Verizon didn't actually get the judgement it requested in the FCC's order, since the company claims the original agreement should have given it this right, it's a minor distinction as the FCC considers this a valid exemption anyway.)

Presumably, Verizon will make its own announcement and set a date for this new rule to go into effect soon. Customers picking up devices on Big Red will have to keep that 60-day carrier lock in mind in the future, should they decide they might want to switch carriers within that period.

Verizon later issued a statement thanking the FCC for the decision, praising it as a "win for consumers," as the company fights phone fraud. Further, the company states that:

"Even with these safeguards in place, Verizon will still have the most consumer-friendly unlocking policy in the industry and we see very little impact on our legitimate customers’ ability to use their devices."

Verizon still has yet to provide a schedule for when these changes might go into effect, merely stating it will happen "very soon."