For cellular customers in the United States, it’s time for good news again, as the US Senate has just passed a bill that makes unlocking of cellular phone devices legal again, preceded by the passing of a similar bill back in February this year by the House of Representatives.
The bill falls under the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act brought forward by Senator Patrick Leahy, which came after the October 2013 Library of Congress ruling that deemed the unlocking of those iPhones illegal that were purchased after January 2013. The ruling was heavily petitioned against and ultimately led President Obama and FCC Chairman to indicate to the Congress that something needs to be done about the new law.
The newly passed Act essentially allows customers to network unlock their devices of their own accord, be it through the carrier services themselves or via third-party options. There are, however, two caveats to the whole story. One, the bill isn’t a law just yet – it needs to be signed by the President after the Senator coordinates with both the Senate and the House Committee that the bills are identical. Second, even if it does become a law, it doesn’t permanently legalize the unlocking of mobile phones, since the Library of Congress can later again rule that such a practice isn’t fair and make it illegal again.
Further details regarding the bill indicate that it includes a certain provision for third-party unlocking services instead of relying on just carriers, which was widely praised by the Public Knowledge group. Furthermore, contrary to the House Bill earlier, the Senate bill also forgoes the ban on unlocking phones for the purpose of bulk resale, which will make things easier on the consumers overall, and is welcomed as a healthy change.
Overall, this bill is a welcome improvement to the telecommunications practice that is in place in the United States, especially since it includes unlocking of the iPhone as well – a device that enjoys the largest market share in the US. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be long before the bill becomes a law once and for all.
What do you think of all this? Do you believe that unlocking a mobile device should always remain legal without any boundaries?