Petition Gets Obama to Back Unlocking Cell Phones

FCC backs legal unlocking, too

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 5, 2013 8:09 AM CST

(Newser) – It now takes 100,000 signatures to get an official White House response to a We the People petition—and angry cell phone users got more than 114,000 after it became illegal to unlock your cell phone on Jan. 26. That's the day the Librarian of Congress ruled that unlocking is a copyright violation, even if it's done after any contract with a carrier has expired, and punishable by up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The petition demanded the decision be rescinded, and the White House agrees, Politico reports. "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 smart phones," reads the official response.

And as far as using that unlocked phone on a different network, the response continues: "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," and crucial for competition and consumer choice. (The National Journal, however, sees that "if you ... aren't bound by a service agreement" as a big caveat.) Politico points out that it's not clear the White House can actually do anything to reverse the decision, but the Library of Congress responded to the White House statement saying it is willing to reconsider. The FCC also issued its own statement backing legal unlocking and urging Congress to overturn the ruling, the New York Times reports.

President Barack Obama uses a cell phone to contact supporters during a surprise visit at an Obama campaign office, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
President Barack Obama uses a cell phone to contact supporters during a surprise visit at an Obama campaign office, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Port St. Lucie, Fla.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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