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Everyone Agrees Unlocking Cellphones Should Be Legal: So What Now?

Another win for Silicon Valley. The movement to allow cellphones to be unlocked—in other words, for the owner of the device to be able to switch carriers at any time—is on the fast track to success.

A White House petition received more than 114,000 signatures, and this week the White House, in an official response, showed its solidarity with the public:

The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. 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.


Evidently able to spot low-hanging fruit when they see it, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and a growing group of lawmakers are jumping on the bandwagon.

Several Senators and members of Congress are advocating to pass a law allowing jailbreaking cellphones. The details of the plan vary, but the gist is the same: let's ditch the ban.

Right now, most wireless carriers silo customers into a two-year contract locked to one device. The fine for unlocking a mobile phone before your contract is up can be as high as $500,000.

In rare synergy, the executive branch, legislative branch, and the people themselves all agree on something—so what happens now? I'm interested to see how the change actually comes to be. It should prove an interesting way to see how the sausage is made.

Image via (cc) flickr user Yasunobu Ikeda

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