Cell phone unlocking bill signed into law by President 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]

President Obama today signed a bipartisan bill into law that allows consumers to switch cell phone service providers without paying for a new phone. The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act reverses a decision made by the Library of Congress two years ago that made it illegal to "unlock" phones for use on other networks without the OK of your service provider, which meant companies like AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint could keep your phone "locked"-- switching carriers or trying to link to other carriers overseas while traveling in that scenario was prohibitively expensive.

Here's background on the bill.

Notable Replies

  1. It is in the fine print of the Constitution -- it can only happen on the eleventh full moon of an even numbered year...

  2. So does this mean folks like AT&T have to unlock the phones that are still under contract or do we still have to go back-alley, just without fear of prosecution?

  3. j127 says:

    One thing phones and tablets still need is root access with an admin password -- just like desktop and laptop computers. People shouldn't have to risk bricking their devices to have full access to the OS.

  4. And unlocked bootloaders!

  5. From the language of the bill, it looks like they have to unlock it, though you will have to continue to pay your contract. I suppose carriers may include explicit language in subsidized contracts saying that you do not own the phone until the contract is entirely paid off, but I doubt this will happen (and I would hazard to guess that it wouldn't be enforceable most of the time).

    I would expect this to mean the end of cheap, subsidized, no-contract phones—especially GSM handsets like AT&T's $50 Lumia 520. Even if your average consumer would be unlikely to get their phones unlocked, the allowance for bulk unlocking means there is a huge opportunity to buy the handsets in the US, get them unlocked, and sell them for double on the international market. Hell, maybe I should buy out Amazon's stock right now...

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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