The White House voiced its support today of an Internet petition requesting that they ask the Library of Congress to change its position on the legality of unlocking cell phones.
In an official statement posted on the We The People blog, R. David Edelman, White House Senior Advisor For Internet, Innovation, & Privacy, stated that the Obama administration agrees with the petitioners, and will support any legislation that would legalize the unlocking of cell phones.
“The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,” Edelman wrote. “In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones.”
“It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.”
Unlocking cell phones became illegal on January 26, 2013 due to a rule issued by the Library of Congress in October 2012 as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). Part of the Library of Congress is the U.S. Copyright Office.
Typically, a person unlocks a cell phone when they want to switch carriers. Due to the new rule, it is now illegal for a person to do so unless they have permission from the carrier they originally purchased the cell phone from.
The petition, created by Sina Khanifar, gained 114,322 votes. A minimum of 100,000 votes are required for the White House to review and respond to the petition. It stated that the new rules forced consumers “to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.”
The Library of Congress has released a statement in response to the statement issued by the White House. They are making a call for legislative action instead of indicating whether or not they will rescind the rule.
“We also agree with the administration that the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context.
“The rulemaking is a technical, legal proceeding and involves a lengthy public process… It does not permit the U.S. Copyright Office to create permanent exemptions to the law.”
“However, as the U.S. Copyright Office has recognized many times, the 1201 rulemaking can often serve as a barometer for broader policy concerns and broader policy action. The most recent rulemaking has served this purpose.”
The FCC has also chimed in on the issue surrounding the recent ruling on unlocking cell phones. In a statement released Monday by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, he expressed concern about the affect that the new DCMA rules would have on competition and innovation.
“From a communications policy perspective, this raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn’t pass the common sense test,” Genachowski wrote. “The FCC is examining this issue, looking into whether the agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers’ ability to unlock their mobile phones. I also encourage Congress to take a close look and consider a legislative solution.”
Do you believe that unlocking cell phones should be legal?
Have you ever experienced trouble with switching carriers and keeping the same phone?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!