Bill allowing Americans to unlock smartphones passes, heads to Obama

 New Yorkers use their smartphones in Manhattan. Soon, they will be able to unlock their smartphones legally, and choose whatever carrier they please. [Reuters]



New Yorkers use their smartphones in Manhattan. Soon, they will be able to unlock their smartphones legally, and choose whatever carrier they please. [Reuters]

The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed bipartisan legislation allowing American consumers to “unlock” smartphones when switching providers.

The Senate has already passed the bill. Now, it heads to President Obama's desk with just a few working days left before the August break. President Obama today applauded Congress for passing the pro-consumer legislation, and is expected to sign it into law.

"The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget," the President said in a statement Friday.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) was passed by a vote of 295 to 114 today. The Senate version, championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was approved 10 days ago.

From Leahy's announcement today:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) coordinated with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) on the issue. (...)

“I thank the House for moving so quickly on the bill we passed in the Senate last week and for working in a bipartisan way to support consumers. The bipartisan Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act puts consumers first, promotes competition in the wireless phone marketplace, and encourages continued use of existing devices,” Leahy said. “Once the President signs this bill into law, consumers will be able to more easily use their existing cell phones on the wireless carrier of their choice.”

“With today’s House passage of the bipartisan Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, this important legislation is headed to the President for his signature,” Goodlatte said. “This law will protect consumer choice by allowing flexibility when it comes to choosing a wireless carrier. This is something that Americans have been asking for and I am pleased that we were able to work together to ensure the swift passage of legislation restoring the exemption that allowed consumers to unlock their cell phones.”

More: NPR, LA Times.