Unlocking your cellphone in the United States will be a lot easier now, due to legislation passed by the U.S. House and Senate.
Yesterday, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives; the Senate version of the bill passed 11 days ago. And President Obama has said he will sign the bill into law.
The new bill allows consumers to legally unlock phones and use it on other wireless networks, rather than being restricted to use on one specific service provider.
The legislation reinstates an exemption to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) that prohibited unlocking a phone.
What the New Law Means to You
Typically when you sign up for a cellphone contract with a U.S. service provider, you’re locked into their network. Which means you can’t switch to another network, even when your contract ends.
The new bill changes that. Once your contract is over and you’ve paid for the phone, you’ll be able to switch providers, without having to buy a new phone.
So, if you bought your iPhone from AT&T, and have finished your contract, you can switch over to T-Mobile. Keep in mind the switch to the new provider will only work if the SIM cards are interchangeable.
Note, the fix is temporary. It only lasts until 2015 when the Library of Congress reconsiders it, and then reviews it every three years.
I loved hearing how the passage of the cellphone unlocking bill started 19 months ago with an online petition by Sina Khanifar. The petition quickly gained 114,000 signatures from frustrated consumers and caught the attention of the White House.
The improved, Senate cellphone unlocking bill just passed in the House! Thanks to all who advocated, particularly folks at @publicknowledge.
— Sina Khanifar (@sinak) July 25, 2014
For a great comment on the legislation, check out Jon Healey’s opinion post, One cheer for the new cellphone unlocking bill.
I shall now translate the Cell Phone Unlocking Bill into English. "You know that stupid thing the LOC did in 2012? We undo it."
— (((haroldfeld))) (@haroldfeld) July 25, 2014