White House Says Phone Unlocking Should be Legalized

More than 114,000 people signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition to overturn a ban of unlocking cellphones. U.S. President Barack Obama's administration responded by saying that owners of phones, as well as tablets, should be able to switch carriers if they paid for those devices or if they're no longer bound by a service agreement. "The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties," R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation and Privacy, said. No action has been taken to immediately overturn the ban but the White House did state it would "support a range of approaches to addressing this issue".

What Else You Need To Know

  • The Librarian of Congress, who has authority over the matter, decided in October 2012 to remove unlocking of phones from exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and so, effective January 26th, unlocking a phone without a carrier's permission became illegal.
  • The Federal Communications Commission is backing the new initiative, saying it's examining this issue, looking into whether the agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers' ability to unlock their mobile phones.
  • Unlocking a handset would allow the owner to easily switch to a carrier that offers better service or terms or use a local SIM card when abroad to avoid costly roaming charges.

Other sources

No action is being taken now that will immediately overturn the current rules. However, now that this has an official White House response, complete with support and a set of actions that can be taken, I hope we see a change sooner rather than later. - Kevin C. Tofel, GigaOM  
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