Unlocking phones might become legal again after White House weighs in

c448cell phone jail breaking petition Unlocking phones might become legal again after White House weighs in

Weeks after it became illegal to unlock a cell phone — orunleash a device to its full potential — the Obama administrationissued a statement supporting an initiative to overturnthe law.“The White House agrees withthe 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able tounlock their cell phones without risking criminal or otherpenalties,” reads the response published on Monday by R.David Edelman, the administration’s senior advisor for Internet,innovation and privacy.“It’s common sense, crucialfor protecting consumer choice and important for ensuring wecontinue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market thatdelivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’needs,” adds Edelman.The statement comes in response to a petition against the unlocking ban that wasadded to the White House’s official website in January and quicklyaccumulated over 114,000 signatures. That petition, created onlytwo days before a new law made unlocking illegal, imploredAmericans to protest the rule.Unlocking a phone allows customers to use a legally purchasedevice with any cell service carrier of their choice while avoidinghefty fees. As of this year, though, an earlier exemption on phoneshas been removed and now cellular devices are subject to rules andregulations about unlocking.“Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees tomake calls while traveling abroad,” the petition onWhiteHouse.gov reads. “It reduces consumer choice, and decreasesthe resale value of devices that consumers have paid for infull.”The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows the Library ofCongress to regulate devices in regards to copyright law, and anupdate that went on the books this year included an exemption thatoutlawed unlocking phones. As RT reported previously, that law wasapproved due in part to heavy lobbying on behalf of a tradeassociation made up of wireless service providers, CTIA, and hasnot gone unopposed. But while the White House isn’t allowed tosimply overturn the decision, the response issued this week pavesthe way for further action from the Library of Congress.The Obama adviser goes on to say that the White House respectsthe Librarian’s decision to make new phones not exempt from theDMCA, but says it stands by the Americans who asked for an end tothe rule.“The Obama Administration would support a range of approachesto addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in thetelecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal lawnor technological locks should prevent consumers from switchingcarriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement orother obligation,” adds Edelman.In a statement added by the Library of Congressfollowing the White House’s response, the very agency that approvedthe unlocking ban admits that perhaps it acted without fulloversight.“Both the Librarian of Congress and the Register ofCopyrights value our colleagues in the administration and thethoughtful discussions we have had with them on this issue. We alsoagree with the administration that the question of locked cellphones has implications for telecommunications policy and that itwould benefit from review and resolution in that context,” thestatement begins. Elsewhere, the author says that the latest rulinghas, while upsetting many of Americans, has served as “abarometer for broader policy concerns and broader policyactions.”In light of the White House’s response, the FederalCommunications Commission has also issued a statement condemning the law. “From acommunications policy perspective, this raises serious competitionand innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn’tpass the common sense test,” FCC chairman Julius Genachowskiwrites. “The FCC is examining this issue, looking into whetherthe agency, wireless providers, or others should take action topreserve consumers’ ability to unlock their mobile phones. I alsoencourage Congress to take a close look and consider a legislativesolution.”

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Unlocking phones might become legal again after White House weighs in

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