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washington d.c. on-line petition copyright office competitive wireless market switching carriers

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#1 Hum

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 22:58

The White House has responded to an online petition to make cellphone unlocking legal, and that should make the 100,000-plus people who signed it very happy. The Obama administration says it's time to legalize the practice, which lets you to take your phone with you if you switch carriers, but was banned in January by the Copyright Office and the Library of Congress.

"The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties," R. David Edelman, White House Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation and Privacy, wrote on the White House Petitions Blog. "In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones."

Typically, if you sign a contract with a wireless carrier, you get a phone at reduced (or no) price as long as you stay with them. Unlocking your phone involves a software alteration and requires a new SIM card -- not a big deal if it hadn't been banned. The White House says the ability to bring your phone to another carrier or network is "crucial for protecting consumer choice" and is important in making sure America maintains its "vibrant, competitive wireless market."

The Obama administration said it is now planning to address the issue and would support legislative fixes to say that "neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation."

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#2 Javik

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 23:01

The new law on phone unlocking was silly to begin with. The fact that the phone comes discounted via the carrier is largely irrelevant, as you're locked into a fixed term contract anyway which means you'll still be paying the bill regardless of the sim you have in the phone.

#3 McKay

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 23:01

Why do phone companies even care if you unlock your device? They still get your money regardless. You'll still pay the monthly fees or if you terminate you'll still have to pay the cancellation fee.

#4 Order_66

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 23:02

For once I agree with Obama.

#5 +Majesticmerc

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 23:05

Excellent news!

It's only a shame they didn't go further and say that all devices should be unlocked by default. That is what I want in the UK.

#6 Javik

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 23:06

Excellent news!

It's only a shame they didn't go further and say that all devices should be unlocked by default. That is what I want in the UK.


Hell yes. Carrier locks are bloody annoying.

#7 PGHammer

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 23:23

Hell yes. Carrier locks are bloody annoying.


They are annoying for a reason - it's called *contract enforcement*.

If all that keeps you tied to a carrier is your word (in short, if all carriers had the same hardware standard, which is pretty much the situation in the UK or EU), the moment another carrier dangled a lower price in front of you, despite the terms of your extant contract, how long would it realistically take for you to change carriers? Just going by what I see on most forums having to do with cellular device usage (anywhere), most folks would bail ASAP - in other words, those contracts would not be worth squat.

The carriers know this - they aren't stupid. Carrier locks are there because (as much as you won't say so) most of us want to get things as cheap as possible, even if it means breaking existing contracts.

In the US, there are different hardware protocols (vastly different, in the case of AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, the two largest carriers) - you simply CANNOT take your phone from one to the other in most cases.

That is why the unlocked-phone situation is far different in Europe as opposed to the United States (or even North America). In Europe, until recently, carriers were limited to national (or regional) borders - however, there was basically little to NO hardware differences between carriers. However, in Europe, there were little usage of carrier-side subsidies - in North America, and especially the United States, carrier-side subsidies were (and, in fact, largely remain) the rule - not the exception.

Get rid of carrier locks and prices MUST go up on the handsets - after all, contracts would be worthless. Are we willing to pay the increased prices non-lockable handsets by default would force?

#8 Torolol

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 23:47

i can still take it if they said unlocking is a contract breach, but "copyright" infringment?

whats there that 'illegaly copied' in unlocking process?

#9 Growled

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 01:52

I agree, it's way passed time this was allowed.

#10 FloatingFatMan

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:21

They are annoying for a reason - it's called *contract enforcement*.

If all that keeps you tied to a carrier is your word (in short, if all carriers had the same hardware standard, which is pretty much the situation in the UK or EU), the moment another carrier dangled a lower price in front of you, despite the terms of your extant contract, how long would it realistically take for you to change carriers? Just going by what I see on most forums having to do with cellular device usage (anywhere), most folks would bail ASAP - in other words, those contracts would not be worth squat.

The carriers know this - they aren't stupid. Carrier locks are there because (as much as you won't say so) most of us want to get things as cheap as possible, even if it means breaking existing contracts.


In the EU, we have exactly the same thing, you know. We have fixed term contracts and subsidized phones. They are very much the majority case when it comes to the latest hardware. However, they very fact that we DO have fixed term contracts is what makes carrier locks a waste of time. It really doesn't matter if you unlock your device and use a different SIM in it, you're STILL locked into that contract, and you're still legally required to pay it. If you don't, the providers WILL take you to court and WILL win a summary judgement against you. You can't get out of it without paying.

In the US, there are different hardware protocols (vastly different, in the case of AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, the two largest carriers) - you simply CANNOT take your phone from one to the other in most cases.

That is why the unlocked-phone situation is far different in Europe as opposed to the United States (or even North America). In Europe, until recently, carriers were limited to national (or regional) borders - however, there was basically little to NO hardware differences between carriers. However, in Europe, there were little usage of carrier-side subsidies - in North America, and especially the United States, carrier-side subsidies were (and, in fact, largely remain) the rule - not the exception.

Get rid of carrier locks and prices MUST go up on the handsets - after all, contracts would be worthless. Are we willing to pay the increased prices non-lockable handsets by default would force?


Sure, you have different hardware, in most cases CDMA which is seriously obsolete these days. :p However, once again, that's not particularly relevant when it comes to the handset pricing. I have a Galaxy Note 2. At over £500 contract free, there's no way I could have afforded that without signing up for a 2 year fixed term, which gave me a heavily subsidized device and I only ended up paying £50 for it. However, my device is NOT locked at all; I can use it on any network I fancy, without limitation. Getting rid of the carrier locks will have NO affect whatsoever on this, as a contract is a contract and you are legally bound by it.