Whether a Highway Bill, Border Protection Bill, and others are passed by this divisive Congress today before adjourning for five weeks is anyone’s guess, but Congress was able to agree today on the passage of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act which the President subsequently signed into law.
The bill originated as a citizen petition on the White House website last year following consumer advocates push for people to be allowed to change carriers once their contract had expired.
Finally, the proper cell phone unlocking bill
Prior to the Act being signed into law, its was deemed a violation of copyright law to unlock or jailbreak YOUR phone based on a provisions in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. In December, all four big carriers in the United States reached an accord to make both prepaid and postpaid unlocking easier.
A version of the bill the passed the house today was passed back in February, but it still prohibiting unlocking “for the purpose of bulk resale.” Today’s bill took out that controversial rider much to the satisfaction of groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation that didn’t care for that amendment.
While never really enforced, it was on the books and users could be fined. Following the bills passage, President Obama said in a statement today, “I…look forward to signing this bill into law.” Presumably the President stopped himself from saying, “Now if they could only said me considerably more important to most Americans.”
The cell phone unlocking bill’s sponsor
U.S. Senator (D-Vt.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the bill, boasted the benefits of recycling, donating or repurposing used phones and tablets and encouraging consumer’s choice and competition among carriers.
“Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider,” Leahy said when introducing a bill that would ensure that ability. “Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in a wireless marketplace.”