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White House Says Cellphone Unlocking Should Be Legal Again



Following a petition on Whitehouse.gov urging the Librarian of Congress to change its decision on making unlocking cellphones illegal, The White House has issued an official response agreeing with the over 110,000 people that have signed the petition. White House Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy R. David Edelman issued the official response saying that The White House agrees “consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties.”

He continued by stating the policy should also extend to tablets, while devices still under contract should be allowed to function on other networks:

And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. 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 decision was made by the Librarian of Congress in October to make unlocking cellphones illegal, and that policy officially kicked in back in January. Today the Library of Congress issued a statement in response to The White House saying it agrees that “the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context.”

Edelman said the Obama administration will work with the FCC and others to implement legislative fixes that prevent consumers from risking criminal penalties related to unlocking. 

The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.

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