White House: “It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking”

Amen.  The White House published a blog post yesterday saying that it supports letting consumers unlock their cell phones so that they can use the phone with other carriers.

Though the administration did throw in a large caveat: this only applies to phones no longer subject to a service agreement.  Meaning, cell phone companies can still lock their phones for the first two years, or whatever, and they can still charge you an exorbitant price for a phone that is unlocked and not subject to a service contract.

But the good news is that this would mean phones that used phones that you get as a hand-me-down, or buy on eBay, would be unlocked.

The White House comment came in response to a petition posted on the White House Web site calling on the administration to “ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.” The petition received 114,322 signatures.

The petition was in response to the news in January that consumers would no longer be able to legally unlock their cell phones, even after their contract with their cell phone carrier has expired.

The administration response proposes a few options for fixing the problem:

The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.

Hot guy with cell phone via Shutterstock.

Hot guy with cell phone via Shutterstock.

We also believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with its responsibility for promoting mobile competition and innovation, has an important role to play here. FCC Chairman Genachowski today voiced his concern about mobile phone unlocking (.pdf), and to complement his efforts, NTIA will be formally engaging with the FCC as it addresses this urgent issue.

Finally, we would encourage mobile providers to 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.

Good luck with the first one.  Congress is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the big telecom companies, just as they’re owned by Big Pharma, the NRA, and other.  Congress has never been owned by the people.  And this is a “people” thing.  They may be a better chance with the FCC, depending on how the other commissioners come down on this.

Considering the absurd price for a mobile phone contract in this country – my iPhone contract is absurd, at $90 a month for the cheapest contract, and I already paid a premium for the phone – while in Europe you can buy a great cell phone for, that’s much better than one of ours, for $26.

Though, as I noted in an update to my story, the “great” French cell phone company I used, called “FREE,” shut down my account, with no notice, because supposedly they couldn’t charge my debit card when I had ample money in the account and my bank statement shows the charge went through – and there’s no one to call to complain to. So there are ups and downs, but still, the prices we pay for cell service and cable (and health care) in this country, compared to comparable service in Europe, are absurd.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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10 Responses to “White House: “It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking””

  1. BeccaM says:

    Aye, that’s wrong, too.

  2. Don’t most Popes “retire” the same way?

  3. nicho says:

    I’ll miss Hugo. Not so much Ratzi the Nazi.

  4. Drew2u says:

    You mean like buying an electronic book that isn’t really yours?

  5. BeccaM says:

    As opposed to what alternative? Different laws according to which state you live in, or even which county? Or completely laissez faire, where the mobile companies are free to sell you a phone that really isn’t yours, not even after your contract is up and you no longer use their services?

    You might want to get that “anti gubmint” knee-jerk checked out.

    There are few more obvious and necessary areas requiring good, consumer-friendly federal regulation than telecommunications.

  6. Naja pallida says:

    What, a patchwork of 50 different sets of laws on the issue would be a better option? Last time I checked, phone lines and cell signals go across state lines. Thus expressly making it a federal issue, per that fussy Constitution thing.

  7. Naja pallida says:

    He just retired in the way a Pope should.

  8. nicho says:

    Yes it should.

  9. guest1 says:

    Shouldn’t be a federal issue in the first place

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