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9/18/2013
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White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones

National Telecommunications and Information Administration asks FCC to issue new regulations allowing consumers to use their devices with any carrier.

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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has formally petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to issue new regulations that would require wireless carriers to unlock mobile devices -- cellphones, tablets and other devices -- for consumers that wish to use other carriers.

The NTIA petition arises out of the White House, where a We the People petition with more than 114,000 signatures earned a positive response from the administration. In fact, the White House increased the scope of the citizens' petition by adding tablets and other devices to the NTIA request.

The proposal would put the burden of device unlocking on the carriers. Consumers could request unlocking as long as they are not bound by a contract or service agreement.

"Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle," said Lawrence Strickling, NTIA administrator and assistant secretary of Commerce.

[ Related story: What Unlocked Phones Mean For Businesses. ]

Until January 2013 there had been an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) that allowed consumers to unlock their cellphones. NTIA, an agency in the Commerce Department, supported continuing the exemption, but the Library of Congress, which has authority over copyright rules, declined to renew it.

What is the connection between unlocking mobile devices and DCMA? It comes down to content; copyrighted material could be moved more easily between carriers. NTIA's petition concludes that the benefits of competition and consumer choice outweigh those concerns.

Congress also has been attentive to the movement. For instance, in July the House Judiciary Committee produced H.R. 1123, the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act." The bill has yet to come to a vote in the full House.

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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
9/18/2013 | 5:55:55 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
This seems like such a no-brainer. Content is a lame excuse for holding a piece of hardware that a consumer owns hostage. Wonder how much the RIAA donated to get that ruling.
OtherJimDonahue
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OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/18/2013 | 10:23:59 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
"It comes down to content; copyrighted material could be moved more easily between carriers."

I'm not quite following what this means. What kind of copyrighted content are they concerned about?
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 1:06:12 AM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
It's rather baffling isn't it? The only legitimate thing that comes to mind would be something like an AT&T app that AT&T would not want running on phone moved to Verizon.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 1:13:21 AM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
I retired a smartphone and wanted a reasonably priced service so my 12-year-old son could make use of the phone. The plans offered by the original carrier weren't a fit with his all-text-and-Web/minimal-phone usage pattern. But I'd have to find some under-the-radar shop to unlock the phone (presumably at some expense). I own the phone. Why not give me the freedom to take it to the network of my choice?
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 5:47:33 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
There ought to be a way for the carriers to retain the copyrighted code and still let consumers have full use of the phones they paid for. It's crazy how many phones a family goes through and ultimately end up in the discard pile all to keep the carriers happy.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 6:34:28 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
One thing to remember is that shelters for battered women always need cell phones, which can cal 911 regardless of plan. So if you have old phones, that's a great reuse.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 7:36:21 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
Which is hilarious, since I bet 99.9% of the users who want to switch carriers would happily allow such carrier-specific apps to be wiped from their devices.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
9/19/2013 | 8:17:39 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
I don't know how it works with other smartphones, but Verizon is required to sell their iPhones completely unlocked as a result of a deal with the FCC. When they got new spectrum as a result of their last major phone company purchase, the FCC required them to sell all iPhones unlocked as some compensation.

That was one reason why we moved to Verizon last December when our contract with AT&T was up. We needed unlocked phones when visiting our daughter in London where she went to university. We had always bought her an unlocked phone at full price, so she could use it here and there.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 9:41:06 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
The carriers really ought to try serving their customers as a way to win loyalty.
Jack N FranF583
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Jack N FranF583,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/21/2013 | 4:04:29 PM
re: White House Asks FCC To Unlock Cell Phones
If some smart but collegial leaders still belonged to the Senate and House Committees that have jurisdiction over patent, copyright, and trademark law, they could fix the disfunctional state of IP. People like Lugar, Nunn, Single, Goldwater knew that the purposes of patents an copyrights were to make productive and enlightened ideas available to the people, while giving the inventors/writers a limited incentive to part with their industrial secrets.

Meanwhile Lawyers have created a pile of steaming bloatware, inserted it into federal law via their lobbies, and called it IP. A decade long effort to remove the 'improvements' in LP, Lawyer Property that corrupt copyright law should start today.
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