Obama Agrees With Petitioners: Cell Phone Unlocking Should Be Legal
March 4, 2013

Obama Agrees With Petitioners: Cell Phone Unlocking Should Be Legal

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Last October, the Library of Congress ruled that it should be illegal for the public to unlock their cell phones, making it impossible for them to hop from one carrier to another and even use their phones overseas as they once had. This law went into effect in late January, but not without stirring up the ire of many unlocking advocates.

As is the new custom, these people started a petition online to send to President Obama via the "We the People" petition platform. This petition received the appropriate amount of signatures required (100,000) to receive a response from the White House and, likely to their surprise, the Obama administration agrees with the petitioners.

While this isn´t an indication that the law will soon change, it appears as if it´s kickstarted the process to overturn the decision. Shortly after the White House´s response, friend of the tech-fiend FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement in favor of making unlocking legal once more. Even the Library of Congress issued a statement saying the law could use some further deliberation.

“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,” writes R. David Edelman, the White House's senior advisor for Internet, innovation and policy in the official White House statement.

“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.”

Edelman says the White House looks forward to working with the FCC, mobile providers and the Library of Congress to “ensure our laws keep pace with changing technology, protect the economic competitiveness that has led to such innovation in this space, and offer consumers the flexibility and freedoms they deserve.”

Genachowski issued his own statement in response to the White House´s comments today, saying the original ruling simply doesn´t make sense.

“From a communications policy perspective, this raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn't pass the common sense test. The FCC is examining this issue, looking into whether the agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers' ability to unlock their mobile phones. I also encourage Congress to take a close look and consider a legislative solution,” said Genachowski in a statement.

While the new law doesn´t make it illegal to own and use an unlocked device, it does make it illegal to use another service to unlock these devices. Apple, for instance, is still able to sell unlocked iPhones directly to the customer because they have permission from the carriers to do so.

There´s no word yet on any further actions being taken by the Library of Congress or other agencies, but it looks as if the responsible parties are open to discussing the idea further.