FCC will investigate phone unlocking ban, cites innovation, competition concerns

By on March 1, 2013, 2:00 PM

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says the FCC will be investigating whether or not a ban on cellphone unlocking is a sensible demand. The government communications body will also be exploring its options to address the ban, assuming it determines the ban is unnecessary.

Genachowski's interest in cellphone unlocking follows much public furor over the ban. In fact, a recent petition against the prohibition generated over 104,000 signatures before February 23 -- 100,000 is the minimum number required to qualify for a potential White House response.

Although jailbreaking smartphones has remained legal since 2010, unlocking -- or modifying a phone so it works on any carrier -- was recently re-outlawed. The Library of Congress failed to renew an earlier 2012 decision which temporarily lifted the existing ban on unlocking, allowing the activity to once again become illegal.

It's unlikely the FCC has any authority over the matter; however, the commission may be able to influence future decisions on the matter by either Congress or the White House. 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is the bill responsible for prohibiting the unlocking of cell phones. The DMCA makes illegal the circumvention of any mechanism intended to restrict access to media, software or technology -- that includes cell phones. However, the DMCA also bestows our nation's grandest library with the authority to grant exemptions to this rule, which inadvertently put the Federal Library in charge of unlocking phones.

Interestingly, jailbreaking (or its equivalent) remains illegal for game consoles and even tablets, despite the fact they are essentially upscaled smartphones. Since the LoC explicitly defines exemptions rather than inclusions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act though, the Library has presumably refrained from exempting tablets in order to avoid having to legally define the still-maturing technology.




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1 person liked this | jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

Although jailbreaking smartphones has remained legal since 2010, unlocking -- or modifying a phone so it works on any carrier -- was recently re-outlawed. The Library of Congress failed to renew an earlier 2012 decision which temporarily lifted the existing ban on unlocking, allowing the activity to once again become illegal.
Domestically we get acclimated to the monopolistic practices of existing carriers.

While traveling in Europe, it was a joy to take a World Phone (ie GSM, 4-band) with me and see the Welcome to XZY Service every time we crossed a country border on the trains.

Adding insult to injury, domestic carriers use different technologies (aka CDMA vs GSM) forcing a purchase of a new device to enable changing service providers - - IMO - - BOY are we suckers!

Littleczr Littleczr said:

I think the phone companies have a right to make jail braking for the purpose of switching carriers illegal. How ever once the contract is over, you should have a right to do what ever you want with the phone.

3 people like this | jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

terminology:

  • jailbreak -> ability do download and install from anywhere
  • unlock -> ability to get service from any carrier with the similar technology

treeski treeski said:

I think the phone companies have a right to make jail braking for the purpose of switching carriers illegal. How ever once the contract is over, you should have a right to do what ever you want with the phone.

After the contract is over or you pay the exuberant cancellation fees...

1 person liked this | Guest said:

What is wrong with the citizens of Earth? It is like I'm living in the twilight zone.

FACT: People who sign a contract and pay $200 up front for a phone do not OWN the phone. They are RENTING to own the phone. The phone company still owns the phone and they have every right within the realm of common and business sense to disallow unlocking the phone for use on other networks.

FACT: When people pay the actual price for a phone up front (ie $650 for an iPhone), a ban DOES NOT EXIST because they own the phone. The user has every legal right to use the phone on the network of their choosing.

FACT: When a user's contract has run out, or the user has paid the fee to cancel the contract, they OWN the phone. And as my 2nd fact states, there is no law banning the unlocking of a phone that you own.

FACT: If you do not like the way that a cell phone company, or any other business, conducts their business practices, do not buy their products. Human beings do not have a RIGHT to a cell phone. Please attempt to use some common sense.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

FACT: When people pay the actual price for a phone up front (ie $650 for an iPhone), a ban DOES NOT EXIST because they own the phone. The user has every legal right to use the phone on the network of their choosing.
hmm; that has not been my experience. Your logic is pristine re ownership, but the carriers don't like unlocking

TS-56336 TS-56336 said:

I hope that they strike it down. It's ridiculous that in this day and age we're as beholden to AT&T and Verizon as we are. There's no doubt as to who wrote this law, nor is there any doubt as to which pre-paid politicians put it into effect.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

When A, T, & T was broken up decades ago, it also provided that people could now buy their own phones, instead of being forced to pay the telephone "utility /monopoly", endless "rental" fees.

So, by those standards, the "anti-jailbreaking" law, is illegal, in and of it's own right. All this s*** of tethering a phone to a specific carrier, is basically an end around play to bypass Sherman Anti-Trust statutes.

You should have to finance your phone separately from your usage charges, even if Verizon and the other carriers have to issue their own credit card to accomplish that.

So, get rid of all the "free phone", rebates, and BS associated with choosing a carrier, and force them to tell you, how much you're paying for your calling. The law used to provide for fully itemized charges, and still does, with respect to a land line service. You people are so hooked on running your mouths non-stop on a cell phone, you pretty much accept whatever nonsense wireless carriers want to inflict on you.

As far as "competition and innovation concerns", if you mean the people will have the advantage, they will, and the carriers will have to provide more of it, as well as sensible pricing to keep their customers.

killeriii said:

What is wrong with the citizens of Earth? It is like I'm living in the twilight zone.

FACT: People who sign a contract and pay $200 up front for a phone do not OWN the phone. They are RENTING to own the phone. The phone company still owns the phone and they have every right within the realm of common and business sense to disallow unlocking the phone for use on other networks.

They are not "renting to own". The carrier will not repossess the phone if you don't pay. They want their money, not a used phone. It's yours from day one. You're just under contract to pay them back.

If you want to take it a little further:

In your line of thinking, credit card companies could also lay down restrictions with your purchases after you've made them. After all, you haven't paid for them yet. But that's not how credit works. Once you agree to pay a specific amount in contract, The credit company has no claim of ownership on your purchases. Even while you still owe money to them. That includes phone subsidies from carriers.

You'd have to be blind not to see that this is a scam, created by the phone companies to stifle competition.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

They are not "renting to own". The carrier will not repossess the phone if you don't pay. They want their money, not a used phone. It's yours from day one. You're just under contract to pay them back.
You're of course correct. But, you're also bogged down in a bunch of semantic crap brought on by fine print, ad hype, ad naseum..

You are "de facto" renting the phone. An iPhone costs $500.00. So, when your phone company tells you they're giving it to you for $200.00, you can expect that the rest of the principle is costed back into your phone bill. If it's illegal to unlock that self same and use it on another network, it follows in a a sequitur fashion that, "a rose is a rose, is a phone, that's being rented.

And guess what, your bill will never go down, even after the phone company recoups its investment. So, let's have a spelling bee, shall we? Own, R-E-N-T, own.

You'd have to be blind not to see that this is a scam, created by the phone companies to stifle competition.
Well, phone companies don't fish with a catch and release policy. If you want to define that as "stifling competition, go right ahead. I in the meantime, will continue to call a phone contract, "the yank that sets the hook".:eek:

learninmypc learninmypc said:

Gosh, I am soooo glad I don't have a cell phone

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Gosh, I am soooo glad I don't have a cell phone
Yeah, me too! I get pissed off just thinking about them.

learninmypc learninmypc said:

Well, ya know what they say, better to be pi$$ed off, than be pi$$ed on. Sorry censors,I used $ on purpose. No money pun intended.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Well, ya know what they say, better to be pi$$ed off, than be pi$$ed on. Sorry censors,I used $ on purpose. No money pun intended.
There, there now, at ease, no cause for alarm or hysterics. The "golden shower" option probably won't be fully implemented until the iPhone8.

Just text, "Siri the Dominatrix"....

learninmypc learninmypc said:

Nice attitude captaincranky (y)

adamsmith0123 said:

Hopefully phone unlocks will be legalized again before the iphone 5s or 6 arrives.

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