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.

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Alex HeathAlex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for three years. He is also a 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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