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Print 26 comment(s) - last by CZroe.. on Mar 9 at 10:39 PM

It said it agrees with the 114,000+ people who signed the petition

The White House has responded to a petition that asks for cell phone unlocking to be legalized, and the Obama administration seems to think it's a good idea.

A petition on We the People called "It's Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking" collected over 114,000 signatures. When any petition on this site accumulates over 100,000 signatures, the White House is expected to respond to it -- and as promised, it has done so.

"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," said the official White House response.

"In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs."

The Obama administration further added that it would support various corrections to the situation, including new legislative rules in telecommunications stating that technological locks and/or criminal law can stop consumers from switching carriers when they're not bound by a contract.

The White House response added that the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will join the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in looking into the matter of cell phone unlocking.

The FCC said it would investigate the ban on cell phone unlocking last week. More specifically, it plans to investigate whether the ban is harmful to market competitiveness and whether the executive branch has the authority to change the law.

The White House made mention that mobile providers should "consider what steps they as businesses can take to ensure that their customers can fully reap the benefits and features they expect when purchasing their devices."

Source: The White House



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By retrospooty on 3/4/2013 9:49:47 PM , Rating: 5
OK, we all get that a 2 year contract gets you a phone on the cheap, in return you are obligated to stay for 2 years... But how in any way should it not be your phone to do whatever you want with after that?

I get a phone every year, so I don't personally even care, but what a ridiculous law in the first place.




By CZroe on 3/4/2013 10:43:08 PM , Rating: 4
I would argue that you should be able to even before that. I can continue my contractual obligations with a different phone, which is exactly what I'd end up doing if I lost it or broke it. Heck, I could continue it with the same phone too (unlocked for travel outside of carrier's service area). I could have wanted another phone badly enough to pay full price and I want to sell my old phone and continue my contractual obligations with the new one. I could have even repeatedly qualified for an early upgrade, at which point my old phone is mine to do with as I please (contract is now for the new phone).


By retrospooty on 3/5/2013 6:44:05 AM , Rating: 2
"I would argue that you should be able to even before that."

Totally agreed. I was putting it as an "at the very least" type argument.


By CZroe on 3/5/2013 10:08:23 AM , Rating: 2
I meant to point out that the conversation keeps getting changed to "carriers should unlock after contractual terms" when it supposed to be a discussion on the legality of doing it yourself. I guess I kinda did that myself. Even the White House's response went to that. :(

You should be able to do it legally whenever you want with whatever means available (exploit, carrier unlock, hardware). Perhaps the carrier doesn't have to make a carrier unlock available until certain terms are met, but it still shouldn't be illegal to DIY when there are plenty of good reasons that don't involve ditching contractual obligations.


By NellyFromMA on 3/5/2013 1:29:47 PM , Rating: 2
Except for the fact that you could also turn around and sell the phone for profit while it's new which that carrier decided it wouldn't. I think unlocking on contract is being a touch too greedy on this one.

If you buy it full price or you finish your contract you should be free to unlock.

The truth is, the subsidized phone model is effing stupid for all of these reasons.

It's another finance American's really shouldn't make. If you want the phone, buy it. I did and its working GREAT for me.

All the BS of the contract and subsidized phone is really just a consumer trap. Big surprise, I'm sure.

Saying you can buy the phone subsidized and potentially turn around and sell it for profit while on contract is just all consumer is just ignoring practicality kind of in the same light that the telco's are. Two wrongs and what not.


By augiem on 3/5/2013 3:33:23 PM , Rating: 2
Problem is, consumers are not intelligent enough to realize this.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014241278873232...

Leap wireless can't sell enough iPhones to meet their contractual obligations. Why? They have to charge full price for the phones. Nevermind you probably save several hundred dollars over the 2 years vs AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.

Consumers in general have to be tricked out of their money. It's tried and true and it works. Just look at the rise of freemium games. People on average pay more per year to play Farmville or Restaurant City than they do any AAA blockbuster title.


By CZroe on 3/9/2013 10:39:21 PM , Rating: 2
It shouldn't matter. It's a SERVICE contract that you are obligated to pay for regardless of what phone you use with it. If I am eligible for an upgrade but am perfectly fine with the phone and contract terms I have, I may renew my contract specifically to unlock and sell a new phone while continuing my obligation with my old phone. See? The phone should not be held hostage when the agreement obligates you either way. It's leverage and it should not be.


By StealthX32 on 3/4/2013 10:46:42 PM , Rating: 2
More Nexus 4-priced, unlocked no-contract phones!


By heffeque on 3/5/2013 3:42:03 AM , Rating: 5
There's a big market for unlocked phones in a lots of countries.
I'm continuously surprised with how things always work differently in the States (generally not a good sign).


By Solandri on 3/5/2013 5:43:44 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
OK, we all get that a 2 year contract gets you a phone on the cheap, in return you are obligated to stay for 2 years... But how in any way should it not be your phone to do whatever you want with after that?

Unlocking phones is actually only half the issue. The converse is also true. Once your 2 year contract is up, you've paid whatever subsidy the carrier gave you when you first got the phone. So your monthly service charge should decrease.

T-mobile is the only major carrier who'll do that (their plans for unsubsidized or out-of-contract smartphones are $20/mo cheaper). Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint go right on charging you the higher subsidized monthly service fee even though you've already paid off the subsidy.

So not only are they refusing to give you the phone you've bought and fully paid for, they're continuing to charge you for it every month as if you haven't paid it off yet.


By Mint on 3/5/2013 8:37:18 AM , Rating: 4
And I give massive props to T-Mobile for doing that. Legalized unlocking will hopefully make more people switch to them (or various MVNOs) after the contract is up.

I really hope they don't reverse course in a panic move from their recent reduced profits. It already sucks that T-Mobile's new Value Plan has the equipment install plan AND another termination fee.

What I would love to see on the front page of all cell phone contracts is the total contractual obligation in big numbers. Then people will understand that they're not buying a $200 phone from Verizon, they're buying a $3000 phone+plan with a $300 termination option.

It should be a simple thing that consumers can compare from one service to another.


By jeepga on 3/5/2013 11:54:15 AM , Rating: 3
I'd switch to T-Mobile in a heartbeat, because of decisions like that if their signal was worth a darn where I'm at.


By Mint on 3/6/2013 12:26:14 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, that's the shortcoming, but at least they don't have data speeds nearly as bad as Sprint.

They do have wireless calling, though, so you basically have reception anywhere there's wifi.


By Mint on 3/5/2013 9:16:44 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
And I don't feel the government has any business telling companies how they have to make their products available to consumers.
If the companies are engaging in tactics to stifle competition, then yes, it is the governments business.

Collusion is illegal because companies can raise prices without the consequence of a competitor taking their business. Unlocking should be legal because without it companies keep prices artificially high without the consequence of a competitor taking the business of people with paid-off phones.
quote:
But I don't have a right to change the terms of an agreement after I've already agreed to it.
What terms are being changed? Every minute, text, and MB used on the company's network will be paid for. Every dollar will be paid for.


By FITCamaro on 3/5/2013 9:53:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Unlocking should be legal because without it companies keep prices artificially high without the consequence of a competitor taking the business of people with paid-off phones.


They had the option to buy an unlocked phone. They choose not to.

And companies only keep prices high because the public has proven to them that they're stupid enough to pay said prices.


By Mint on 3/6/2013 12:31:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They had the option to buy an unlocked phone. They choose not to.
That's no justification for why, upon taking ownership of the phone, people shouldn't be able to do what they want with it.

quote:
And companies only keep prices high because the public has proven to them that they're stupid enough to pay said prices.
You're only stupid if you have a choice. Locking impedes the development of that choice.


By theapparition on 3/5/2013 9:26:39 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
And I don't feel the government has any business telling companies how they have to make their products available to consumers.

The problem is, the government already stepped in and made cell phone unlocking illegal. The government overstepped their bounds by including this into law, along with the entire DMCA.

So if you don't think the government should be involved, you should absolutely applaud this decision to reverse a bad law.


By NellyFromMA on 3/5/2013 1:38:03 PM , Rating: 2
The choice is there. The phone lockign debacle removes choice from the equation honestly, hence the animosity towards the topic.

I think it makes sense to not be able to use your phone on another carrier while fulfilling your contract as being able to unlock during that period is just not fair in the opposite direction IMO.

However, when the contract is up, there is no legitimate reason for that device to be stuck on their network. None. It should be allowed to operate on any carrier it is compatible with once obligations are fulfilled.

That said, I'm so done with contracts. What a waste.

I bought my S3 for 600 from ATT when it came out, obtained an unlock code IMMEDIATELY, and then proceeded to change over to straight talk for under 50 a month unlimited EVERYTHING.

Seriously, it's a beautiful thing and its definitely the way I will proceed from here on out.


By NellyFromMA on 3/5/2013 1:26:17 PM , Rating: 2
This is just telco abuse. Thankfully the WH is on the right side of this one. It's asinine to think your 'computer of the future' would be locked to a single carrier and you'd have to toss it out and get another if you change your ISP essentially.


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