Back in October 2012, the US Library of Congress’s Copyright Office ruled that unlocking cell phones to work on other carriers would no longer be legal under US law. The act of unlocking a phone was previously legal under the law, though the exemptions called for three-year reviews to be enacted, and despite being reinstated in 2006 and 2010, the ruling was defeated in 2012 and the ban on unlocking was reinstated on January 26, 2013.
Almost immediately after the ban took effect, an official White House petition was started in hopes of getting the Obama administration to issue a response to the ruling. The petition quickly garnered the 100,000 digital signatures needed to mandate a response from the President, and today the Obama White House posted its official stance on the matter (via Engadget).
“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. The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.
We also believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with its responsibility for promoting mobile competition and innovation, has an important role to play here. FCC Chairman Genachowski today voiced his concern about mobile phone unlocking (.pdf), and to complement his efforts, NTIA will be formally engaging with the FCC as it addresses this urgent issue.” - R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation and Privacy
The wheels are turning and processes are being set in motion to hopefully bring an end to the ban on cell phone unlocking, which solely benefits the carriers and was fought for pretty strongly by the CTIA. Though nothing changes per se in light of the official White House response and subsequent call to action, the White House Press Release potentially gets the ball rolling for a reversal on the part of the Library of Congress. Of course, the Obama Administration can do nothing without the support of Congress, which if you’ve been following some of the issues with the sequestration fiasco, leaves little hope for a timely resolution.
Here’s hoping the FCC and the White House can strongarm Congress into introducing legislation to once again allow consumers to do whatever they want with their phones.
This article was written by Anthony Domanico
Anthony is the Editor in Chief of Techgress, and a big mobile and gaming geek. He's covered mobile technology for the better part of three years, and gets excited about shiny, new things. He currently uses an iPhone, iPad Mini, and Nexus 7, but Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry devices are never too far away.