But now the Federal Communications Commission wants to cement that agreement — and on a much faster timetable. In letters sent to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular on Thursday, agency chairman Tom Wheeler asked the companies to make "'lock/wipe/restore' functionality operational by default on all devices … by the end of the first quarter of 2015."
An FCC study this week concluded that thieves steal more than a million phones a year. Of all robberies committed annually in the United States, about one in 10 involves the theft of a mobile device, according to the report. Even those figures are probably incomplete, given that the FCC drew its data from just 21 jurisdictions (albeit along with information from the FBI). So Wheeler is also asking the carriers to collect better data about how many phones get stolen on a regular basis, and when.
Unsurprisingly, wireless lobbyists are pushing back against what it calls the "artificial deadline" set by the FCC.
"The relevant state laws and the [industry] voluntary commitment contemplate new solutions in July 2015," said Jamie Hastings, an executive at the industry association CTIA. "The [FCC study] made no reference to implementing any specific recommendations by the end of the first quarter of 2015, and it is unclear why the FCC chairman’s letter to some stakeholders appears to shift that timetable."
Either way, it appears that you'll soon be able to erase your phone remotely if it ever leaves your possession — no matter which national carrier you choose.