White House says phone 'unlocking' should be legal

Mar 04, 2013
Mobile phones sit on display in the window of a store on January 14, 2013 in New York City. The White House said Monday it agrees with a citizen petition arguing that "unlocking" of mobile phones to allow users to switch carriers should be legal.

The White House said Monday it agrees with a citizen petition arguing that "unlocking" of mobile phones to allow users to switch carriers should be legal.

In a statement released on the White House petitions web page, presidential aide R. David Edelman said the administration supports the view of more than 114,000 signers who argued they should be able to unlock their cell phones without criminal or other penalties.

"It's common sense, crucial for protecting , and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers and solid service to meet consumers' needs," Edelman said.

"This is particularly important for secondhand or other that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs—even if it isn't the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers deserve that flexibility."

Edelman said the White House supports "a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes" to the law in question, and added that the may also play a role.

The issue arose from a ruling by the Librarian of Congress, stating that persons who circumvent the software protecting a mobile phone which is "locked" to a single carrier would no longer be exempt from as of January 26.

The ruling prompted a flurry of protests, and more than 100,000 people added their names to the White House petition, enough to require a response under the Obama administration guidelines on online petitions.

Explore further: Scientists twist radio beams to send data: Transmissions reach speeds of 32 gigabits per second

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

White House changes email rules

Aug 17, 2009

The White House said Monday it will tighten its email sign-up rules after drawing fire from some recipients of a message about health care policies who complained they had not asked for such updates.

No alien visits or UFO coverups, White House says

Nov 07, 2011

The White House has responded to two petitions asking the US government to formally acknowledge that aliens have visited Earth and to disclose to any intentional withholding of government interactions with ...

White House seeks spectrium for public safety

Jan 27, 2011

(AP) -- The Obama administration is throwing its support behind a plan to give a valuable chunk of radio waves to police officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers to build nationwide wireless broadband network ...

Recommended for you

Alibaba prices IPO at $68 per share

7 hours ago

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse named after a fabled, poor woodsman who discovers a thieves' den full of treasures, is ready to strike it rich on the New York Stock Exchange.

Home Depot breach affected 56M debit, credit cards (Update)

8 hours ago

Home Depot said that 56 million debit and credit cards are estimated to have been breached in a data theft between April and September at its stores in the U.S. and Canada. That makes it the second-largest breach for a retailer ...

User comments : 12

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lurker2358
2.3 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2013
Good.

If you own something, you own it.

A phone is useless without a carrier (currently,) but if you OWN the phone, you should be able to choose how you use it, and who you do business with.

Required "Data plans" should also be banned through legislation, as they are NOT necessary for the most basic operation of smart phones, and are just a trumped up excuse for carriers to charge OWNERS more money.

Europeans have a pay as you use Data plan, and I was told that people who don't actually do much downloading can just turn off automatic updates, and update once per month, and they'll end up paying just $1 per month for "Data".

American providers and carriers are doing the same thing they've always done, which is make any excuse to force price setting on the people, either directly, or by making up a bunch of excess fees and charges.

Once people have some more choices, it may help a TAD with this, but until these "required" fees for services NOT used are banned, it won't be enough.
SleepTech
4 / 5 (6) Mar 04, 2013
Wow, the government actually stands up for it's citizens and not their corporate donors. I'm legitimately surprised, there must be a catch somewhere.
Lurker2358
5 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2013
It would be nice if some tech firm, like those people who made "magic jack," would engineer a plug-in adapter that would allow users to operate their own phone service and internet networks on self-organizing distributed networks for smartphones. Cut out the "carriers" entirely through two-way networking...

The ultimate goal would be for most of us who never place international calls to just buy a phone and use the damn thing, without paying some middle-man carrier, because we'd be on a user-owned and user-operated distributed network.
Lurker2358
4.6 / 5 (9) Mar 04, 2013
Imagine if you went to a car dealership and were planning to buy a car.

The dealership tells you that you will be required by law to only buy gasoline at Exxon, never Racetrack, or BP. You cannot make fuel of your own, and you cannot modify the car in any way...but you "own" the car and you are responsible for it's maintenance. Further, you must pay the dealer a "passenger fee" every time you actually want to use your car. Additionally, you can't drive to some states unless you pay the dealership another fee.

You would like to go to another dealership, but it seems all the other dealerships have the same sort of scams...

Seriously, you'd laugh at them and they'd all be taken to court, sued, and they'd lose.

So why do phone providers and phone companies (and now internet) companies get away with this crap decade after decade, no matter the new technology?
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2013
Europeans have a pay as you use Data plan, and I was told that people who don't actually do much downloading can just turn off automatic updates, and update once per month, and they'll end up paying just $1 per month for "Data".


Depends on which European country you're talking about.

In many places, in many networks, if you don't have a data plan, you can end up paying up to €5 a megabyte for data transfer. Same thing with roaming, to the point that the EU has had to put some regulations on that stuff so people don't end up with thousands of euros in debt for checking their emails in the wrong place.

It's a big problem because people who don't have data plans often buy new phones, slot the SIM in and then start trying out the browser and downloading fart apps and checking for system updates, and then they'll fight the carriers in court for not reminding them that the plan they bought ten years ago has the default rates for data which is really really expensive.
jmlvu
5 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2013
When did the library of congress become the justice department? They going to send a librarian to my door to force me to hand over my copyright infringing phone. There is a department that can be cut from the government and nobody will notice.
FrankHerbertWhines
2.8 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2013
In other words, Nobama and the missus already
illegally unlocked their phones.
El_Nose
1 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2013
this is more complex than you own something you can do what ever you want with it -- this is the entire open source debate all over again... if you purchase something you are nowadays only purchasing the right to use something in a limited way, and your purchase does not transfer ownership but the right to use.

Now I personally disagree with that line of thought but it is the current opinion of companies trying to protect their intellectual rights.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act puts the ability to change laws on digital content firmly in the Library of Congresses hands. And this will not come back up for review for three years
frajo
not rated yet Mar 05, 2013
It would be nice if some tech firm, like those people who made "magic jack," would engineer a plug-in adapter that would allow users to operate their own phone service and internet networks on self-organizing distributed networks for smartphones. Cut out the "carriers" entirely through two-way networking...
There is a technology called Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). I'm using SIP to place free (as in carrier-free) international calls between SIP enabled machines. Those may be landline phones or PCs. I don't know whether there are SIP apps for smartphones, but technically it should be feasible.
More info:
http://en.wikiped...Protocol
http://en.wikiped...ki/Ekiga
alfie_null
not rated yet Mar 05, 2013
Imagine if you went to a car dealership and were planning to buy a car. The dealership tells you that you will be required by law to only buy gasoline at Exxon, never Racetrack, or BP. ...

A slightly more accurate analogy would be: A car dealership will sell you a car, say a Corvette, for something like $5000. But you have to agree to buy gas where they say, or otherwise pay some sort of relatively steep usage fee.

It's possible to purchase unlocked phones, they just cost a lot more.

The strategy works well with the use-now-pay-later attitude many consumers have nowadays. I suppose it also helps assure providers they have a stable base of subscribers, who aren't subject to flight to another provider just because the competitor can provide better value.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2013
The issue here is that it is currently a *crime* to unlock a phone, which is of course ridiculous and should be legalised.

Contract penalties will still apply if you unlock it or otherwise use it in a way which goes against the contract. Because in some carrier plans you dont actually own the phone.
alq131
5 / 5 (2) Mar 05, 2013
so, shouldn't my Diner's Club card be able to be "unlocked" so I can use it whereever I could use a Visa? I own the card, I should be able to use what ever service suits my needs. my ATM card should be unlocked so no fees are incurred at other banks.

I think there are many examples where forcing an unlock is not wise. I also agree though that it shouldn't be criminal, it just may be that the phone self -destructs if you do it.

The companies are in many cases selling a phone AND service...so the fact that a phone is owned shouldn't mean that a company can or cant lock it. you know that going in, if you don't like the combination, don't buy the phone. The market will figure it out.
Apple didn't get my business because AT&T sucks. Do they care? probably not, because they're selling the phones to people willing to hack them.