Cellphone Unlocking Soon to be Legal


Image from phandroid.com

Image from phandroid.com

This past Friday, Congress passed a bill called, “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” that makes it legal to unlock cell phones for personal use.  “Unlocking” usually entails entering codes or using external software so that phones are not limited to certain carriers.  An unlocked phone can use other carriers, if the phone is physically capable of using a certain provider, some phones cannot so easily switch carriers due to differences in tech.  The easiest switch tends to be from AT&T to T-Mobile.

Obama himself says he looks forward to signing the law, saying, ““The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget,” said Obama, “I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.”

The origin of the unlocking bill comes from an action by the Library of Congress from 2012 making it a copyright violation to unlock cell phones without the original carrier’s permission.   The move sparked outrage among the consumer community for limiting consumer choice, and a petition against the move quickly gained 114,000 signatures.

Sina Khanifar, the pen behind the original petition, is quite happy with the result, “It took 19 months of activism and advocacy, but we’re finally very close to consumers regaining the right to unlock the phones they’ve legally bought, I’m looking forward to seeing this bill finally become law – it’s been a long road against powerful, entrenched interests – but it’s great to see citizen advocacy work.

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