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White House: Feel Free To Unlock Your Phones

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A petition asking for the reversal of a ruling that made phone unlocking illegal, which was signed by more than 100,000 Americans on the White House’s official website, has received a response today. The White House says that it is fully in favor of reversing the ruling, and giving the ownership of devices back to consumers.

The response comes just days after the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, vowed to do everything in his power to change the ruling issued by the Library of Congress in January, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Genachowski reiterated his support for the reversal in that decision today, echoing the White House’s response.

In its response to the petition, the White House said that “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 doesn’t get much clearer or more directly to the point than that. The White h0use unequivocally supports the rights of consumers to unlock their mobile devices.

The response also noted possible moves it will look at in order to make the change. According to the statement, the administration supports several different types of response, “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.”

The statement from the FCC Chairman said that his regulatory body does not believe the ruling passes the “common sense test.” He also noted that the regulator was looking into the issue to find potential solutions. “The FCC is examining this issue, looking into whether the agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers’ ability to unlock their mobile phones.”

Consumer rights groups have what seems like full support on this issue. Consumer lobbies don’t get many cases in which they feel the full weight of government is behind them on an issue. This must seem like a break from the usual grind.

Just because the President is behind them on this issue, doesn’t mean its resolution will be easy. Nobody is quite sure how to address it. It’s not legal to force the Library of Congress to reverse its decision, and Congress is not exactly the quickest way to get things done.

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