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White House Responds in Favor of Legalizing Phone Unlocking

Mon, 03/04/2013 - 1:54pm
Ben Munson

After more than 114,000 people signed a petition asking the White House to reverse a recent decision by the Library of Congress to criminalize the unlocking of cellular phones, the office of President Obama has responded in support of legalizing the practice.

“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,” the White House said in today’s statement. It added that it should also be legal to unlock tablets.

Moving forward in addressing the issue, the White House suggested “narrow legislation fixes in the telecommunications space.” It also urged the FCC and the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration to take action and encouraged providers to “consider what steps they as businesses can take to ensure that their customers can fully reap the benefits and features they expect when purchasing their devices.” 

Unlocking phones had previously been deemed an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act but a decision by the Library of Congress changed that earlier this year and threatened to impose a fine upon users engaging in the practice.

Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that he would look into the matter, saying the ruling raises competition and innovation concerns.

CTIA noted that the practice of unlocking phones is essential to the industry but that user unlocking had enabled “large scale phone trafficking operations” to buy, unlock and sell pre-paid handsets away from the U.S. market. CTIA also said that owners of wireless devices do not necessarily own the software on those devices.

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