U.S. House Approves Bill Making Smartphone Unlocking Legal, Obama Pledges to Sign it Into Law

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Jul 25, 2014.

  1. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    We're one step closer to being able to legally unlock smartphones again, as the United States House of Representatives today passed legislation that legalizes cell phone unlocking, unanimously voting in favor of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.

    The Act was approved by the Senate last week, which means the final step is presidential approval. Obama has long supported making cell phone unlocking legal again, and today pledged to sign the bill into law.

    The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act came about following a 2013 "We the People petition" that called for cell phone unlocking to be made legal. Cell phone unlocking first became illegal in January of 2013, after an exception in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act expired, restricting U.S. customers from shifting service to other carriers or using their devices abroad with local SIM cards.

    Under the terms of the bill, consumers and third-party services will again be able to unlock cell phones and tablets without receiving express permission from carriers and without facing criminal penalties.

    In December of 2013, U.S. cellular carriers and the FCC also came to an agreement over a set of voluntary principles that make it easier for wireless customers to unlock their devices and switch from carrier to carrier after a contract has been fulfilled.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: U.S. House Approves Bill Making Smartphone Unlocking Legal, Obama Pledges to Sign it Into Law
  2. macrumors 601


    Aug 17, 2007
  3. macrumors 68000


    Feb 27, 2014
    New Jersey, United States
  4. macrumors G3


    Aug 3, 2011
    Gramps, what the hell am I paying you for?
    I love how anything involving politics around here instantly gets shoved into PRSI. :p
  5. macrumors regular

    Mar 23, 2014
  6. macrumors 68040


    Apr 10, 2008
    So what does this mean for the consumer? Does AT&T / verizon have to unlock our phones from day one? Even if purchased on subsidy?
  7. macrumors 6502a

    May 8, 2008
    Yay!! Until we start having to buy all smartphones cash up front at full price.
  8. macrumors 6502a

    Dec 2, 2013
    Oh, cool. I may have actually signed that petition, come to think of it.
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 3, 2013
    No. You have to be in good standing with carriers in order to get it unlocked before the end of contract term. I had multiple iPhones unlocked for less than 1 year in with 2 year contract from ATT. They actually allow 5 unlocks a year.
  10. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 12, 2014
    Even though I'd never have any reason to unlock a phone, I'm glad to hear that it's legal again.
  11. macrumors 6502

    Feb 25, 2003
    Tempe, AZ
  12. macrumors regular

    Aug 18, 2002
    Current models or just future releases?

    I ask because Sprint us notorious for telling people Sprint can't unlock their phones - not refusing, but essentially claiming that the firmware/software can't be unlocked to work on another carrier.
  13. macrumors 601


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    Finally. All of our problems are now solved. Congress should just take the rest of the year off so they can pat themselves on the back for a job well done. But before they do, why not vote in favor of a pay increase for themselves? They deserve it.
  14. macrumors 68020

    Jun 29, 2009
    Does this mean those dollar unlocks will be back? :eek:
  15. macrumors 6502


    Jul 30, 2011
    Brooklyn, NY
    Something tells me that Sprint will find their way around this. They're the only one we're talking about here anyway.
  16. cgc
    macrumors 6502a

    May 30, 2003
    This didn't seem like it meant carriers HAD to unlock phones...just that it wasn't illegal to do so (e.g. can't brick you).
  17. macrumors G3


    Mar 20, 2003
    San Francisco
    They don't really need to do that because they can still lock you into a contract that covers the cost of any subsidy, so even if you take your phone and go elsewhere, you're on the hook for either the monthly charges or the ETF (which will, again, cover their subsidy).

    All of that said, I now buy my phones cash up front at full price and get:
    - lower monthly bill, sufficient to make the two year cost of ownership lower than with the subsidy
    - as a sub point to the above, with a subsidy, you keep paying the same high monthly cost even after the contract is up and the subsidy is "paid off," which means if you ever keep a phone longer than 2 years, you're REALLY getting ripped off
    - no contract
    - unlocked from day 1, even before this legislation

    So all in all, I'm a big fan of cash up front with no contract. Provided of course you have the cash in hand up front.
  18. macrumors 6502a


    Feb 11, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Once your contract has been fulfilled the provider should be obligated to provide the unlock at no charge.
  19. macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2013
    Sprint already have a way around it. All the bill will do is make unlocking cell phones legal, it doesn't say that Sprint has to do it or make it easy for you.

    Still a step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned, particularly since carriers contribute extremely little to the iPhone (in terms of manufacturing I mean).


    How many carriers in the US actually drop prices for unsubsidized phones or after contract? I was under the impression that most of them don't differentiate, and are part of the reason why unsubsidized phones aren't very popular there.
  20. macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2011
    Upper Midwest
    This is good news for consumers. But politically speaking, it's just embarrassing anymore to me when people praise Congress for passing a bill and being able to work together. That should be the norm, not some wild, crazy exception that only happens on bills that have no political consequences for the politicians or that can't be used against the other party.

    I've seen several Facebook posts this year of friends asking if anyone has a used smart phone to sell them, and they've all needed one from a carrier I'm not with. This bill will make selling phones easier.
  21. macrumors 601

    Oct 23, 2010
    If I buy my phone outright, it should be unlocked by default.
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Nov 18, 2008
    Well, there are a few carriers that don't have contracts and offer lower prices. Some that come to midn are:
    MetroPCS (Also Offers free phones though)
    Straight Talk
    Republic Wireless
    Freedom Pop

    So, yes it is possible to get an unsubsidized phones and a lower price. Freedom Pop offers free cell phone service (limited number of minutes though) and depending on your phone, you may be able to bring it with you.

    There are of course other options as well, but not AT&T, Verizon or Sprint.
  23. macrumors 604


    Feb 23, 2010
    So they will just need an "administration charge" from you to unlock your phone :)
  24. macrumors G5


    Nov 25, 2005
    Probably yes. However, you probably have a 24 month contract with them, and that contract stays valid. So you are free to move to another phone company, as long as you keep paying the old one.

    Buying a subsidised phone with a 24 month contract with the intent of unlocking it, selling the phone for cash and not paying the contract, that would probably be fraud.
  25. macrumors 65816


    Feb 27, 2006
    If you buy your phone outright, it is unlocked by default. (At least, that's the case with an iPhone for which you pay full price.)

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