White House files petition with the FCC to legalize cell phone unlocking

By on September 20, 2013, 7:30 AM
fcc, white house, we the people, cell phone unlocking, petition

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.

User Comments: 3

Got something to say? Post a comment
MilwaukeeMike said:

Is this even possible with all carriers? Sprint phones aren't GSM for example and don't have SIM cards so legal or not you can't get a Sprint phone to work with AT&T's network. I know AT&T and T-Mobile are compatible, but I'm not sure about Verizon. I remember we had a story a while back about the Nexus 4 having LTE that you could turn on, but only in Canada or something because they had the right bands. Point is, I don't think unlocking is as simple as installing a software update.

So far as the carriers are concerned, there are two sides to the argument. They could lose customers if phones are unlocked, but they could also gain customers. It would increase competition, but it would also increase costs for the carriers. They would have to provide this service, which means either it wouldn't be free or other fees go up. Carriers may be against it just because it'll be a hassle.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

When AT&T/ Bell Telephone monopoly was broken up decades ago, one of the chief advantages of the move, was that consumers were no longer forced to rent their phones.

Before the breakup, you could expect an equipment rental charge on every phone you got. There was jubilation throughout the land!. You could now go almost anywhere and buy your own phone, in any size shape or color your heart desired.

Plus, all of the phone networks had to be compatible and interconnected.

And so, boys and girls, IMHO, it's already illegal to force phone rental (*) on the public. It just so happens that the American consumer is too ungodly stupid to know it.

(*) When you come right down to it, isn't a locked cell phone attached to a forced contract, just a euphemism for "equipment rental"?

And couldn't Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner, be classified as "monopolies", in all but the strictest sense?

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Is this even possible with all carriers?
If PC's and Apple's can communicate with each other, I'm sure they can devise a way to convert between GSM and SIM. The only question would be whether or not the service provider supports both types of phones.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.