Beginning Friday, August 1st, it is once again legal to unshackle your carrier-locked cell phone in the United States. President Obama on Friday signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law, thus giving cell phone users the legal right to unlock their handsets.
Smartphones are often sold locked by wireless carriers in the U.S., meaning that the devices can only operate on the contracted carrier’s network despite being technically compatible with other networks. This new law will make unlocking those cell phones for use on other networks via a third party legal once again after an amendment to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act made it illegal last year.
“[This] effort began with a digital petition on the White House’s We the People site, an online platform where citizens can offer ideas for the Administration to take action on important issues facing our country,” Senator Patrick Leahy and President Obama’s economic advisor Jeff Zients wrote on the White House blog. “A digital rights activist named Sina Khanifar submitted a simple request: restore an exception to the law to let consumers take their mobile phone to the carrier that best suits their needs by ‘unlocking’ the device.”
The post continued, “The petition drew an extraordinary response, with more than 114,000 citizens making their voices heard. And within two weeks, the White House answered with a call to action, laying out steps the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), industry, and Congress could take to ensure copyright law would not undermine wireless competition.”