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White House Files Petition Asking FCC to Require Carriers to Unlock All Mobile Devices

iphone_5_black_whiteThe Obama administration has filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking that all wireless carriers be required to unlock all mobile devices, reports The Washington Post. The move comes several months after The White House backed a "We the People" petition that successfully garnered more than 100,000 signatures calling for cell phone unlocking to be made legal.

The "We the People" petition was started following an October ruling by the Library of Congress' Copyright Office that ended an exemption within the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that formerly allowed cell phone unlocking. It became illegal for U.S. mobile phone users to unlock newly purchased cell phones without express permission from their cell phone carriers on January 26, 2013.

According to Tuesday's petition from The White House's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, permitting unlocked devices, including both smartphones and tablets, would increase both competition and consumer choice.
"Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle," said Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary of the NTIA.
The FCC reportedly began investigating whether or not the cell phone unlocking ban results in harmful effects for consumers in March, though no news has surfaced on the issue since then.

At this time, it remains illegal for individuals to unlock cell phones purchased after January 26, 2013 in the United States. Carriers are still permitted to unlock devices, however, and unlocked devices can also be purchased at unsubsidized prices from a number of carriers.

Top Rated Comments

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14 months ago
This won't get us to forget about the NSA, Obama.
Rating: 40 Votes
14 months ago

When all phones are required to be unlocked on demand, you can kiss the $99 or $199 iPhone goodbye. They'll START at $499 or $549, to reflect the true retail value of the phones. It's locking that makes subsidized prices possible.


Wrong, service contracts make subsidized phones possible.
Rating: 28 Votes
14 months ago

This won't get us to forget about the NSA, Obama.


Yes, blame it all on Obama, just like rush and hannity want you to
Rating: 27 Votes
14 months ago

When all phones are required to be unlocked on demand, you can kiss the $99 or $199 iPhone goodbye. They'll START at $499 or $549, to reflect the true retail value of the phones. It's locking that makes subsidized prices possible.


Not necessarily. Just because your phone is unlocked, doesn't relieve you of the contract you signed. If you ditch early, you'll still be paying the subsidized portion of the hardware in your early termination fee.
Rating: 26 Votes
14 months ago
interesting, everyone hates the carriers but as soon as obama tries to do something for the consumer, everyone jumps to the carriers' defense...wtf?
Rating: 16 Votes
14 months ago

Anyone who thinks government can just force companies to sell us unlocked phones for what locked phones cost now is not being honest with him/herself.


So if I'm on At&T and I want to go to Europe and buy a sim card there and use it in my phone, I shouldn't be able to do that? Even if your phone is unlocked, it doesn't mean you can get out of your contract without an early termination fee, which more than covers the subsidy on your phone. This is exactly what government is there for, to keep corporations from abusing customers.
Rating: 15 Votes
14 months ago

If this happens then goodbye subsidization.


That makes no sense. Carriers would still require you to pay to get out of your contract, and that usually more than makes up for the subsidization you get on your device. People are unlocking phones and have been doing so for years in the gray market and that hasn't made carriers abolish subsidization.
Rating: 14 Votes
14 months ago

When all phones are required to be unlocked on demand, you can kiss the $99 or $199 iPhone goodbye. They'll START at $499 or $549, to reflect the true retail value of the phones. It's locking that makes subsidized prices possible.


Huh? That's what the contract is for. An unlocked phone doesn't get you out of the contract, that pays the subsidies.

Even if the phone is unlocked, and you switch carriers, you still have to pay your original contract.
Rating: 14 Votes
14 months ago

If this happens then goodbye subsidization.


I never believed that carriers actually had to lock phones to a network in order to force customers to honor a contract.

If a customer decides to cancel mid-contract, the carrier can simply enforce the early-termination penalty. Anyone under contract has a social security (or at least a credit card) on file with the carrier. I doubt that many people would risk ruining their credit for a gain of a couple hundred dollars.
Rating: 11 Votes
14 months ago
When all phones are required to be unlocked on demand, you can kiss the $99 or $199 iPhone goodbye. They'll START at $499 or $549, to reflect the true retail value of the phones. It's locking that makes subsidized prices possible.
Rating: 9 Votes

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