Users will not be able to alter their cellphones to access different networks starting Saturday. But advocacy groups are questioning the law.
Starting Jan. 26, buying and unlocking a phone will no longer be legal in the United States.
The term "unlocking" a phone means to remove the security feature that prevents the phone being used on a different network. Once a phone is unlocked, it can work on more than one carrier's network. Unlocking phones is useful for those traveling internationally because it allows phones to work on different networks.
The Librarian of Congress, who determines any exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided in October 2012 that unlocking cellphones would no longer be allowed. A 90-day window was provided during which people could still buy phones and unlock them.
Currently Apple sells an unlocked iPhone 5 starting at $649 and Google sells Nexus 4 unlocked for $300.
Mashable reports that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is questioning DMCA's right to determine who can unlock a phone.
EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz said in a letter to TechNewsDaily.com: "Arguably, locking phone users into one carrier is not at all what the DMCA was meant to do. It's up to the courts to decide."