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The bill follows a promising response from the White House to a petition for cell phone unlocking

Well, that was fast: a bill to once again make it legal for consumers to unlock their cell phones was introduced yesterday, after the White House sided with a petition just earlier this week.

Democrats and Republicans alike have backed the new measure. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have joined Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) in pushing the Wireless Consumer Choice Act, which would make sure users have the option to unlock their cell phones and switch carriers if they please.

“Consumers who have purchased a mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service contract, should be able to use it on another network,” said Blumenthal. “This legislation is common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring healthy competition in the market.”

Earlier this week, the White House addressed a petition called "It's Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking" on its We the People site. The petition collected 114,000+ signatures, and received a promising answer from the White House.

"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."

Source: All Things D

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This doesn't make sense
By Spookster on 3/8/2013 12:47:10 PM , Rating: -1
Correct me if i'm wrong but I thought the main reason why these companies make you sign a 2 year contract is because they give you the phone at a significantly lower than retail cost and that's their way of ensuring they make their money back on the phones. Basically they are giving you a short term loan or payment plan so you can have the latest and greatest phones at an affordable price hence why they would allow you to unlock it after the contract is up. If the government steps in and now forces them to allow us to unlock the phones whenever we want won't that force the companies to no longer provide the phones at that lower cost? The better option would seem to be that each company should just offer both full price unlocked phones without a contract and the discounted locked phone with a contract until the contract it up. That way if you don't want to pay $1000 for your iPhone you just sign the contract that says you'll stay with them for 2 years and get it for much less. For those that don't like that just pay the $1000 and enjoy your freedom.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By menting on 3/8/2013 12:56:43 PM , Rating: 2
that's why the ETF is there.
If they have an ETF, they do not have a valid reason for locking phones

RE: This doesn't make sense
By Spookster on 3/8/2013 1:52:20 PM , Rating: 2
Ok maybe that's the part i'm missing. So even if you leave and pay the ETF which covers the remaining cost of the phone the phone is still locked to them so you can't use it with your new service provider? So if this legislation then forces them to allow you to unlock the phone so you can use it with the new provider then that only seems fair.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By Rukkian on 3/8/2013 2:05:54 PM , Rating: 4
You are correct. The reason this is even an issue, is that somebody at the FCC got paid off by the wireless duopolies in the US to make it illegal to ever unlock your phone without express permission from the original provider. This made it so that even if you did you full contract (or paid the etf), if the provider said no, you could not legally unlock your phone.

This pissed off quite a few people that then started the petition.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By wookie1 on 3/8/2013 3:25:42 PM , Rating: 2
Incorrect, the library of congress is responsible for this one(!). Somehow, they are in charge of allowing exceptions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and they elected not to exclude cellphones anymore.

I think that this is just a band-aid. A better solution would be to repeal the DMCA. That won't happen due to MPAA and RIAA lobbying and substantial donations to lawmakers and the president.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By dijuremo on 3/8/2013 12:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
I think you just forgot about the "early termination fees", they have covered themselves with those if you decide to jump ship.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By Uncle on 3/8/2013 1:29:12 PM , Rating: 2
Phones are cheap. The companys get exclusive rights to sell the phones at an arbitrary figure that is high enough to force you to get a subsidized phone by signing a long term contract. If everyone could pay the $600 phone outright the companies will jack up the price until the consumer can't pay. As a business model it works in two ways. One, they get you to sign a long term contract with a ETF and they know they will make so much profit for the next two yrs or three if you live in Canada. Keeps you from switching if they give you shitty service. I've never signed a contract and I've never had the horror stories that I hear from the people on contracts. Any complaints on my bill are dealt with instantly because they know I will switch and I have done so in the past. I have two windows phones sitting here that make great mp3 players, quality of sound is decent. I would rather the industry get out of the sales of phones completely. I should be able to buy any phone at any Phone store, where the stores might compete on prices. As it is now the three majors in my area sell the phones at the same price, charge the same unlocking fee with or without a contract, have the same ETF's etc, competition at its best.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By MadMan007 on 3/8/2013 2:08:20 PM , Rating: 2
What's missing is the option to BYOD but also sign a contract at a reduced price because you don't get a hardware subsidy. I have a Nexus 4 and would have considered doing that but it simply doesn't exist so I had to go prepaid instead.

So AT&T gets $50 a month from me for 250 voice/unlimited text/1 GB data but I can leave whenever I want. I would have signed a contract for $50 with maybe 3GB of data - basically their average contract plan - but they want the same price as if I got a subsidy. Their loss, and they will lose me altogether for at least a few months when my built-up prepaid credit is used and I try out T-Mo - that wouldn't have happened with a reduced price contract.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By Schadenfroh on 3/8/2013 6:52:08 PM , Rating: 2
Why the service providers "sell" subsidized phones is beyond me, just setup a lease agreement for the phone instead.

RE: This doesn't make sense
By MadMan007 on 3/8/2013 7:46:34 PM , Rating: 2
Carriers don't want a two-year old phone back.

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