Phone unlocking ban sparks consumer ire; White House petition

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Over the weekend, unlocking your smartphone became a crime. That decision, made by the Congressional Librarian last October, went into effect on Saturday.

Now there’s a petition to reverse the decision. The petition, posted at the White House website, already has almost 29,000 of the 100,000 signatures it needs to elicit a response from the Obama administration. You must create a account to sign the petition.

The petition asks that “the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.”

Why start a petition?

The author of the petition, 27-year-old app developer Sina Khanifar, says the ban only gives wireless carriers more leverage over smartphone owners. “Since you're already paying for the subsidy by signing a contract with your carrier, locking is just a way for carriers to force their customers to buy a new device if they want to change their carrier.”

Smartphone owners now can’t legally unlock their phones for use on a different cell network without their current carrier’s permission, even after their contract has expired.

Smartphone owners who travel abroad can’t make their phones ready to connect to compatible overseas networks, which forces them to pay expensive roaming charges to their carrier back home.

The unlocking ban reduces the resale value of phones, because people want to buy used phones that give them a choice of networks.

Why opposition to unlocked phones?

The Congressional Librarian (agreeing with the CTIA, the wireless industry association) felt that phone unlocking should not be legal because the wireless carriers already have very liberal unlocking policies, and that unlocked phones can be bought directly from phone manufacturers.

Under the law, the penalties for unlocking a subsidized wireless phone without carrier consent can be severe. If convicted, an offender can be fined up to $500,000 or imprisoned up to five years for the first offense. An offender can be fined up to a million dollars and/or go to prison for up to ten years for each subsequent offense.

This story, "Phone unlocking ban sparks consumer ire; White House petition" was originally published by TechHive.

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