President to sign bill into law that legalizes cell phone unlocking

Back in 2012, a decision to criminalize the unlocking and use of devices on networks they weren't intended for was made by the Copyright Office. This law severely limited the choices that consumers could make, and caused a lot of backlash against the government as well as service providers. Because of this, Congress has passed the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act," which is expected to be signed into law soon by the President of the United States.

The bill, which was created shortly after the original law was passed, will make it legal for consumers to use their devices on other networks without the consent of their providers. “The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget," said President Barack Obama, who has supported this bill from the start. He also “commend[s] Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look[s] forward to signing this bill into law.”

The person who wrote the White House petition against this topic, Sina Khanifar, said that he is "looking forward to seeing this bill finally become law – it’s been a long road against powerful, entrenched interests – but it’s great to see citizen advocacy work.” 

Source: Time | Image via Shutterstock - photo of a SIM card on a smartphone keyboard

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Bose sues Beats for patent infringement over noise-cancelling headphones

Next Story

Verizon to begin throttling some users with Unlimited 4G LTE data plans this October

39 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

It's completely the opposite in S. Korea where it's illegal to sell locked phones. All phones have to be sold unlocked even the ones that have been heavily subsidized by the carrier.

That's interesting! I guess that would work ok for long-terms contracts (2 years say) because it doesn't matter to the carrier because you're already signed up to them.

Where it wouldn't work (in Australia) is for pre-paid phones. Here you can buy "outright" phones which are unlocked and full-price. You can also get "pre-paid" phones which are locked to a carrier without a contract, but are cheaper than "outright" (Lumia 520 you can get $99 pre-paid, but are about $150 outright...yes, a lumia 520...Australia is still that backwards...)

And then if you want to unlock it telcos charge like a wounded bull for doing so take telstra for example they wanted $100AUD to unlock a Huawei y300 that my son wished to use back here in NZ and that was after they were told it was network unlocked to start with I shortly told them where they could stick their $100 bucks

Wait, so you couldn't insert just any carrier's SIM you wanted in devices bought off-contract (by paying full price of the device to device retailer - no carriers included in process)?

Swapnil Rustagi said,
Wait, so you couldn't insert just any carrier's SIM you wanted in devices bought off-contract (by paying full price of the device to device retailer - no carriers included in process)?

Which retailer? The carriers racket in the US like Al Capone in Chicago during Prohibition: you go, for example, to Best Buy and the only devices for sale are locked to one of the carriers. You have to use Expansys or other similar virtual stores to buy an Unbranded device

Cosmocronos said,

Which retailer? The carriers racket in the US like Al Capone in Chicago during Prohibition: you go, for example, to Best Buy and the only devices for sale are locked to one of the carriers. You have to use Expansys or other similar virtual stores to buy an Unbranded device

But these carrier-locked devices at Best Buy must be heavily subsidized, right? Or are these full-price devices (full price here refers to the actual device cost, like around $100 for a Lumia 520 or 620) that you have to pay for and still user only that carrier service?

Swapnil Rustagi said,

But these carrier-locked devices at Best Buy must be heavily subsidized, right? Or are these full-price devices (full price here refers to the actual device cost, like around $100 for a Lumia 520 or 620) that you have to pay for and still user only that carrier service?

They are heavily subsidized only if you sign a contract. If you buy it without a contract, they are still locked. A $100 off contract Lumia 520 is carrier locked, mainly (I think) because they slightly subsidize it.

rfirth said,

They are heavily subsidized only if you sign a contract. If you buy it without a contract, they are still locked. A $100 off contract Lumia 520 is carrier locked, mainly (I think) because they slightly subsidize it.

So unlocked phones must be very rare in US. Hard to imagine. Also considering that carriers also unnecessarily control phone updates in US. I now think the situation is so much better in India and Most other parts of the world. Here ALL phones are UNLOCKED. You have to pay the full price (no subsidies of any sort). But you have the option of inserting any carrier's SIM anytime you want. And then OS updates of course, solely in the hands of the device OEM.

deadonthefloor said,

No, it makes inventory easier.

That too. But does AT&T not slightly subsidize them? An AT&T Lumia 520 is only $49.98 off contract. Is that the full price, or do they actually cost a bit more?

And why would the Republicans do that, this was their bill. Of the 114 votes against, 94 were democrats. Please think, or research before rambling.

Good. We need more shutdowns of our bloated, burgeoning, and belligerent and bloodsucking US government . The guv is mostly staffed by those who are almost unemployable in the private sector, in make-work jobs that could be done by anyone with two brain cells to rub together. Bring down the deficit by a negligible amount maybe, but it's worth it

mzta cody said,
Good. We need more shutdowns of our bloated, burgeoning, and belligerent and bloodsucking US government . The guv is mostly staffed by those who are almost unemployable in the private sector, in make-work jobs that could be done by anyone with two brain cells to rub together. Bring down the deficit by a negligible amount maybe, but it's worth it

I'll stand with you! Who needs it, shut it DOWN.

mzta cody said,
Good. We need more shutdowns of our bloated, burgeoning, and belligerent and bloodsucking US government . The guv is mostly staffed by those who are almost unemployable in the private sector, in make-work jobs that could be done by anyone with two brain cells to rub together. Bring down the deficit by a negligible amount maybe, but it's worth it


Yeah, give us back Monarchy while at it.

mzta cody said,
Good. We need more shutdowns of our bloated, burgeoning, and belligerent and bloodsucking US government . The guv is mostly staffed by those who are almost unemployable in the private sector, in make-work jobs that could be done by anyone with two brain cells to rub together. Bring down the deficit by a negligible amount maybe, but it's worth it

A government shutdown is nothing more than a national park shutdown. The worthless freeloader millennial trash still get their welfare and food stamps regardless.

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
I can't believe this was illegal in the US in the first place...

I don't think it was ever anticipated when the DMCA passed in 1998.

adrynalyne said,
Just a typical day for our government. Tack a bill onto another without actually reading it.

Nobody intelligent reviewed it.

It wasn't technically a bill tacked onto another bill. The restriction was derived from the DMCA, which was meant to criminalize the cracking of access protections to copyrighted works. The Library of Congress determines the exact rules on this, and is able to give exemptions where the cracking doesn't affect the commercial rights of the copyright owner. They've declined exemptions for unlocking phones, even though it really doesn't really have anything to do with copyright issues.

The bill still allows restrictions on bulk unlocking.

How about passing a law that says service providers can't automatically charge you extra for a data plan just because you have a smartphone? I hate that one.

frett said,
How about passing a law that says service providers can't automatically charge you extra for a data plan just because you have a smartphone? I hate that one.

Yes, that's the stupidest policy they have. 100MB of data for a smartphone and 100MB of data for a feature phone should cost the same.

Pluto is a Planet said,
And that's why I never buy new phones; because I have a smartphone they don't recognize with no Internet plan.

They recognize the phone; the system just doesn't automatically change your plan unless you renew as it would be a violation of the contract you signed.

Vonauda said,

They recognize the phone; the system just doesn't automatically change your plan unless you renew as it would be a violation of the contract you signed.

I've looked at my account info on their website and they don't recognize my phone at all (listing it as a general mobile phone or something). I have the Geeksphone Peak. It even lets me tether Internet from Wifi to USB which is great lol.

And yes they can change your plan without notifying you. If you ever put your SIM card into a smartphone they do recognize, it changes the plan automatically. At least it does for AT&T in the US; it happened to my brother.

Pluto is a Planet said,
If you ever put your SIM card into a smartphone they do recognize, it changes the plan automatically.

I got a locked AT&T Lumia 620. If I look up the account on AT&T's website, it's says Lumia 620, so they definitely recognize it... although it doesn't have a picture.

No data plan, and they haven't changed anything automatically.

rfirth said,

I got a locked AT&T Lumia 620. If I look up the account on AT&T's website, it's says Lumia 620, so they definitely recognize it... although it doesn't have a picture.

No data plan, and they haven't changed anything automatically.

Wow that's amazing... I'll have to see if I can do that then.

Good. If somebody is willing to spend $500+ on a cell phone, they should be able to use it on whatever network they want to. When you buy a cell phone, you're buying the hardware, the service is an optional addon that you should be able to pick and choose from instead of being locked into the company that you buy the phone from.

Umm... If you paid $500 for that phone then you probably bought it unlocked at which point the act is moot.

This is more about the people who got a phone subsidized but decided to change networks mid contract or wants to use their phone overseas on a different provider where it may be cheaper. This makes it legal for people to remove the lock without having to bug their provider for the code.

sava700 said,
Well its about time this worthless president did something useful too.

President can't pass consumer protection laws, or laws in general.

Because the currently elected senate and house can't work together at all USA is in peril.