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
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)

(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 The petition demanded the decision be rescinded, and the White House agrees, Politico reports.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.

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Showing 3 of 28 comments
Mar 5, 2013 1:02 PM CST
five years in prison and a $500,000 fine. for unlocking a cellphone - Umm I want to make it clear right now, I do not have old cellphones that are unlocked or any other cell than the fully legal current one with my current plan. (runs home to dispose of some old "equipment.") Nor do I have an iPod like a pirate ship. I have never sold lemonade without an license. Never not showered before going into a public pool. All my labels are firmly attached to my mattresses. I never drank underage. I always ware my seat belt and never speed. I've never illegally gambled in my home. Never smoked in a non smoking area. Never loitered randomly. Never set off fireworks illegally. Never Jaywalked, or parked illegally. I most definitely never smoked weed or took medications that were not mine or expired. PS:do not look at my play list either.
Mar 5, 2013 10:26 AM CST
what the heck are they talking about?
Mar 5, 2013 10:05 AM CST
The cell phone companies subsidize the costs of these phones to be used on their network. You can still sell your phone, just not to a person on a different provider. Why should another company reap the benefit of a phone your company subsidized for a customer? Example, the iPhone 5 full retail price is about $650 for the lowest model, so let's say AT&T gets them wholesale for $450 from Apple. You can own one for $199. Who do you think pays the $250 difference? AT&T does They pay it not JUST to have you sign a 2 year contract, but in essence the phone is more their property than yours considering the subsidy and should remain on their network even if you decide to go elsewhere.