The White House, or more specifically, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has filed a formal petition with the Federal Communications Commission that would force wireless providers to unlock mobile devices at the request of customers.
Earlier this year, the White House chimed in on the matter after a petition on the We the People website garnered more than 114,000 digital signatures. Much to the delight of petition supporters, the Obama Administration said they would support a range of approaches to address the issue as consumers shouldn’t be forbidden to switch carriers when they are no longer bound by a contract.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 contains a wide-reaching law that prohibited Americans from sidestepping technologies that protect copyrighted works. The Library of Congress has the authority to grant exceptions – which they did in 2006 and again in 2010. The group elected not to renew the exemption to unlock phones earlier this year which has since made the activity illegal.
Those against phone unlocking feel phones shouldn’t be moved to a different network than they originated on due to the subsidies that carriers provide to customers upfront to help offset the high price tag associated with most devices. Others, like the NTIA, believe this would actually increase competition and give consumers more choices when it comes to selecting a provider.
We’ll keep an eye on this and see how it plays out but I wouldn’t expect an answer anytime soon.