Print 23 comment(s) - last by JamieYoak.. on Jul 30 at 11:44 PM

This current legislation now pushes the Library of Congress to consider whether other wireless devices -- like tablets --should be eligible for unlocking

Wireless customers will finally be able to unlock their mobile phones and use them on their carrier of choice, according to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy

U.S. President Barack Obama will reportedly sign a bill that once again allows consumers to switch their phones to any carrier they please via cell phone unlocking. The Senate passed the bill the week of July 14 and House of Representatives passed it unanimously on July 25. Now, Obama is expected to sign the bill into law immediately.

"Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose," wrote Obama on the We the People petition site. "We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. 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."

Back in October 2012, the Library of Congress ruled that cell phone unlocking without your wireless carrier's permission was illegal. 

Mobile users were upset with the ruling, and a petition on the White House's We the People page aimed to give people their right to switch back. 

In March 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it would begin investigating the ban placed on cell phone unlocking. 

Later that year, it was reported that the FCC was working with major U.S. carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) on new rules regarding cell phone unlocking. For instance, one rule was that carriers had to notify customers about their cell phone unlocking eligibility (via text or otherwise) and also require the carrier to process or deny unlocking requests within two business days. 

These rules were being put in place because consumers have to depend on carriers to unlock their phones, and this isn't always easy. Sometimes carriers refuse to do so because they want to lock customers into their service contracts in exchange for heavy subsidized prices on new devices. This is particularly inconvenient for consumers traveling abroad who don't want huge roaming charges, or if they simply want to change carriers.  

Shortly before these rules were in the works, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sent a letter to Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA Wireless Association -- a trade group that represents cellular carriers -- saying that wireless carriers need to unlock consumer's cell phones once they've fulfilled contract obligations, or the FCC will be forced to regulate.  

This current legislation now pushes the Library of Congress to consider whether other wireless devices -- like tablets --should be eligible for unlocking.  

Source: Patrick Leahy

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YES they should
By mchentz on 7/28/2014 12:17:04 PM , Rating: 5
Yes Tablets and other subsidized devices should be unlocked one their contract is completed.

RE: YES they should
By retrospooty on 7/28/2014 12:38:43 PM , Rating: 3
It only makes sense... The BS part of it was the initial way it worked all along and then the 2012 ruling that it was illegal to unlock without carrier permission.

At least it's about over. A rare example of congress and the WH doing the right thing.

RE: YES they should
By GotThumbs on 7/28/2014 1:00:11 PM , Rating: 2
doing the right thing

lets just say it just is common sense.

The right thing would have greater all impact on this nation, such as focus on economy, and energy Independence, securing our nations border, charging Bergdhal with deserting his post and bringing that marine back from Mexico.

It does make sense, since by the time the contract is complete, you've purchased the device.

BUT Compared to all the REAL issues going on in the nation/world.

Unlocking phones is kindergarten-ish compared to whats going on in our world today.

Please, lets keep things in perspective.

RE: YES they should
By retrospooty on 7/28/2014 1:15:00 PM , Rating: 2
OK, but this is a tech site and an article about cell phone unlocking. Let's do keep this in perspective ;)

RE: YES they should
By amanojaku on 7/28/2014 1:24:54 PM , Rating: 1
When has that ever stopped us from going on non-technical tangents? Check any article with 50+ comments and half of the comments are non-technical. Just sayin'...

RE: YES they should
By Gunbuster on 7/28/2014 1:19:47 PM , Rating: 2
This is genius.

I'll just not do my job and when the boss calls me on it I'll say "hey calm down and forget about it, there are REAL issues going on in the world"

RE: YES they should
By Dobo on 7/28/2014 6:04:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but this makes sense seeing how the president is a prolific inventor himself.

RE: YES they should
By JamieYoak on 7/30/2014 11:44:25 PM , Rating: 2
Congress actually did something right.

RE: YES they should
By amanojaku on 7/28/2014 12:51:37 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, we should. But I have a feeling Obama will come back with "No, we can't." I hold no hope that things will change.

RE: YES they should
By Reclaimer77 on 7/28/2014 2:23:17 PM , Rating: 1
This passed the House unanimously.

So judging by his previous example I'm half-expecting he'll reject the bill out of hand and blame the "Republicans" for being big racist meanies and not giving him everything he wants. And continuing to "gridlock" Congress or whatever.

RE: YES they should
By soccerballtux on 7/28/2014 4:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
we're on your side guys! we passed it in the house! it's the senate's fault! Those pesky [controlling majority] got in our way!

RE: YES they should
By Dobo on 7/28/2014 6:35:16 PM , Rating: 2

If only president Obama could write his own laws, we wouldn't need those pesky republicans. As the greatest inventor of our time its a shame we can't let him hold the reigns for a little while.

By Gunbuster on 7/28/2014 12:20:17 PM , Rating: 2
Meanwhile all the carriers will continue to screw up phones to be a pain in the ass unlocked.

No doubt they will be looking at the Verizon playbook as they are forced to ship unlocked 4G phones.

Popular strategies: Screw with the MMS settings so they don't work on another carrier. Mess up tethering built into the OS so it doesn't work on another carrier. Lock the bootloader so you cant unbrand the phone. Make sure Wifi calling is tied to the carrier specific software. Did I miss any more?

RE: meanwhile
By Jaybus on 7/28/2014 4:29:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, the most important one. Mess up the OS update/flash so that only locked phones can be updated.

RE: meanwhile
By Solandri on 7/28/2014 7:57:49 PM , Rating: 3
Unfortunately, this is why this law won't have much effect (and probably why it's been allowed to pass by the cellular carriers). Most of the new carrier-branded phones I'm seeing are limited to supporting only the frequencies that carrier uses. So even if you unlock it, it's not going to do you much good since it won't function or will function with reduced capability with a different carrier.

To really make this work, there needs to be a partner law which requires carriers to accept any device a customer brings which is compatible with their network. Once that happens, the phone manufacturers will begin selling phones directly to customers which are capable of operating on all the carriers' networks.

A good example is the Nexus 5. It supports a broad range of frequencies, and should work with Verizon in most areas (supports one of Verizon's two LTE bands). But Verizon blacklists it so you can't use it on their network even if you pop a Verizon SIM into it. We need a law making that illegal. The sale of spectrum to the carriers gives them a monopoly to provide service over those frequencies. It was never intended to give them a monopoly on products sold to provide that service. But that is exactly what the carriers are trying to leverage it into.

About time
By Jaybus on 7/28/2014 4:41:16 PM , Rating: 3
About damn time. Strange how the DOJ can see IE inclusion in Windows as an unfair trade practice while at the same time letting cell carriers blatantly lock phones in an obviously unfair fashion for decades. Leahy has been in the Senate since 1998 and just now thought to write this bill?

RE: About time
By Shadowself on 7/28/2014 6:06:48 PM , Rating: 2
It has to do with what is written into the anti trust laws. Per the laws the two are quite different.

You can start out with a restrictive process -- locking in your customers (e.g., locked phones). If the system starts out that way then, by the laws, this is OK.

If you start out with one monopoly (e.g., Windows OS) then use that monopoly to expand the market base for a product in which you have a small market share (e.g., IE), then that is, per the laws, illegal.

AT&T, Sprint, etc. started out selling smart phones locked to their companies. The situation has not changed. They still sell locked phones.

Microsoft got a monopoly in desktop OSes (Windows, by some estimates, had as much as a 98% market share in desktop OSes). But Microsoft had a small market share in Internet browsers (by some estimates as low as 15% or less before Microsoft included IE in the OS).

Then Microsoft built IE into the OS itself and Microsoft claimed you could not buy Windows without IE as an integral part of Windows *and* Microsoft claimed that removing IE from Windows would cripple Windows. After this new version of Windows started shipping by some accounts IE's market share of browsers in use jumped to over 70%.

Thus Microsoft was convicted of using its Windows monopoly to force a radically increased market share of another Microsoft product: IE. By anti trust laws this is illegal.

No Contract?
By grumpy44134 on 7/29/2014 11:00:07 AM , Rating: 2
What about no contract, month to month phones?
Or does this apply just to contract plan phones?

RE: No Contract?
By Dr3amCast on 7/29/2014 11:32:09 AM , Rating: 2
I'm wondering the same thing. I recently purchased a G3 at retail. I would have just purchased an unlocked model but At&t had it for $589 while the unlocked model is $700 on Amazon. Because I own this phone flat-out am I able to have it unlocked whenever I please?

Do you think
By EuLoGy on 7/28/2014 2:32:08 PM , Rating: 2
Largent "received" the message? ...ya, that was bad.

By ProfFarnsworth on 7/28/2014 3:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand why people don't root or unlock their phones more often. Goto XDA and find your phone. They will have stickies there to unlock your android phone.

Best things about rooting:
No crappy bloatware
No keyloggers
No crappy ui made by the manufacturer
No BS locking apps to phone

Also for all of you that have unlocked your phone, do yourself a favor and get Titanium backup.

I love this law!!
By rika13 on 7/29/2014 9:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
The entire text is six pages long and consists of "lets undo that 2012 ruling and make it like it was back in 2010" and make the LoC look at other related devices that are locked.

Lawyers at Work
By JamieYoak on 7/30/2014 11:42:03 PM , Rating: 2
It would not have been illegal in the first place if the lawyers were not making a killing on Trade Mark Infringement cases, Jamie Yoak.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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