President Obama makes smartphone unlocking legal again

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A new smartphone unlocking bill has made its way through the Senate and House of Representatives, and now it’s getting the seal approval from President Obama.

Today The White House announced that Obama will sign the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” into law, which gives the right to unlock your phone after your contract is up and take it to another carrier.

The White House is calling the bill a “rare trifecta” in that it’s “a win for American consumers, a win for wireless competition, and an example of Democracy at its best — bipartisan Congressional action in direct response to a call to action from the American people.”

The bill, which has been spearheaded by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, received unanimous approval in Congress. It all started with an online petition to add an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that would allow you to freely and legally take your phone to a new carrier once you have paid off its two-year contract.

You have been able to unlock phones in the United States, but the process is legally questionable and has varied from carrier to carrier. Part of the bill requires that carriers make it simple and straightforward for non-technical customers to unlock their devices if they want to switch carriers.

Here’s Obama’s full statement on the bill:

I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a “We the People” petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. 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. I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.

  • Steve_Sava

    about the only thing Obama has done that makes sense. :)

    • AKC322

      There are millions of Americans who could not get health insurance before who would disagree with you.

      • Keep_Calm_And_Deadpool

        As someone who pays taxes, I disagree with you.

      • AKC322

        As someone with working brain cells, I disagree with you.

      • Keep_Calm_And_Deadpool

        You support Obama… enough said.

      • OMFGitsJUSTIN

        You comment on posts by “Young Conservatives” about gun laws. Trust me. That is enough said.

      • Keep_Calm_And_Deadpool

        Your point? Wait, never mind, whatever you’d say would make my brain cells commit suicide.

      • R3sp3ctfu1Gam3r

        And………… There’s a problem with that?

      • http://athames.com/ Crates

        My health insurance costs about 2000% of what it did five years ago (taken on a per-annum basis), and nothing has changed significantly for me personally. No major health issues, no major birthdays… just a big ol’ reaming from the insurance companies.

        I know this is off-topic from the OP discussion, but I can’t help but to think that Obamacare has had something to do with this, even though I’m not on an Obamacare plan. Everyone I have personally spoken with on the subject feels totally screwed by insurance rates in recent years.

      • R3sp3ctfu1Gam3r

        *implied facepalm*

    • David

      Give credit where credit is due but the headline is pretty misleading. Obama simply signed the bill. This was a congressional initiative and given how pathetically partisan Congress is currently I’m glad to see them actually agree on something good.

  • AKC322

    It’s “Leahy” for one. How does this legislation change anything? We could always change carriers after a contract was up.

    • http://athames.com/ Crates

      Yes, if you were willing to throw out or sell your phone (assuming anyone wanted to buy it). Some people actually want to keep their phone at the end of a contract. Some people would like to use international phones on local carriers.

      The OnePlus works anywhere in the world, but here in the US, you can only use it on AT&T or T-Mobile (despite that it is fully capable of operating on the frequencies needed to access Verizon’s LTE network, or Sprint’s CDMA network). When I bought it, I figured I’d be able to use it with my Verizon account. Not so. Maybe now, that could change.

  • ash_mobius

    What’s with the partisan headline? How about, “Obama Signs Bipartisan Bill Making Smartphone Unlocking Legal Again.”

  • http://athames.com/ Crates

    Maybe now I can finally use my OnePlus on my Verizon account…

  • LIGH7

    Well done, Mr President. I’m proud of you !

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a senior writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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