'Common sense' says users should be able to unlock cell phones
A number of United States senators are looking to overturn a ruling by the Library of Congress prohibiting users from unlocking their cell phones from their carrier even after their contract has expired.
Unlocking the cell phone allows a user to switch the device to another carrier. In a much criticized ruling, the Library of Congress said that cell phone users have to obtain their carrier's permission to unlock their phones even if their contract with the carrier had expired.
The ruling related to an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allowed users to unlock their mobile phones to access competing carriers--an exception that expired earlier this year.
The ruling prompted an online petition, which gathered more than 114,000 signatures. In response, the White House issued a statement earlier this week calling for legalization of cell phone unlocking.
"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. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smartphones," the White House said in a statement.
"And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs," the statement added.
A number of Democratic senators said that they want to pass legislation legalizing cell phone unlocking. The powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which handles copyright issues, said he plans to work with Republican senators to pass such legislation.
"I agree with the administration that consumers should have the flexibility to use their devices on any network they choose, provided they comply with the terms of service. I intend to work in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to restore users' ability to unlock their phones and provide them with the choice and freedom that we have all come to expect in the digital era," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in a statement.
I have to agree with the White House and Sen. Leahy on this one. It's "common sense" that users should have the ability to unlock their cell phones and switch to another carrier if there is no service agreement or the agreement has expired. Let's hope Congress can manage some rare bipartisan action and pass legislation that would overturn the misguided ruling by the Library of Congress. - Fred