Cell Phone Unlocking Legalization Backed By White House

Cellphone Unlocking Legal White HouseThe White House responded to the petition on We The People platform wherein more than 100,000 citizens voiced out their concerns about the legalization of cell phone unlocking in the United States.

Upon reaching the needed number of signature in the petition, White House commissioned experts on telecommunications technology and copyright policy to study the decision of the Librarian of Congress to ban cell phone unlocking in the country.

White Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, and Privacy David Edelman voiced out the official response of The White House to the petition, saying that cell phone unlocking should definitely be legalized to protect consumer’s choice and maintain good competition in the wireless market.

Edelman said on the official response:

“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 is 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.”

Under the Librarian of Congress decision, any person caught unlocking their mobile phones could be fined not more than $500,000 and could face not more than five years imprisonment for first offense. For second and succeeding offenses, a consumer could be fined as high as $1,000,000 and could be detained up to 10 years.

Edelman also added that the Obama administration will do all steps necessary to address the issue, including encouraging lawmakers to draft legislative fixes that will allow consumers to unlock their phones without facing any charges or sanctions.

The White House also issued a call out to the Federal Communications Commission to address the issue. And as a response to the official statement of The White House, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement:

“The Copyright Office of the Library of Congress recently reversed its longstanding position and stated it is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for consumers to unlock new mobile phones, even those outside of contract periods, without their wireless providers’ permission, and that consumers are subject to criminal penalties if they do.”

“From a communications policy perspective, this raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn’t pass the common sense test. 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.”

The White House and FCC said that they will look forward to working with the Congress along with the wireless network carriers and consumers to draft a plausible solution to the issue.

[Source: White House, FCC]