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Cellphones Your Rights Online

White House Urges Reversal of Ban On Cell-Phone Unlocking 256

Posted by samzenpus
from the set-my-phone-free dept.
netbuzz writes "In a dramatic call for action directly prompted by 114,000 signatures on a 'We the People' petition, the Obama Administration moments ago urged the reversal of a federal regulatory decision that had rendered the act of unlocking a cell phone illegal. From the reply: '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.' Statements from the FCC and Library of Congress indicate that they back the administration's position."
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White House Urges Reversal of Ban On Cell-Phone Unlocking

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  • Re:Political stunt (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 04, 2013 @05:06PM (#43072345) Journal

    Actually, I expect this to get some traction. Cell phone unlocking has been legal for a year or two now, and telcos aren't suffering too much from it. This is a small issue that will win Obama some major positive PR. He needs to deliver on small issues like this so people don't notice he hasn't even tried to deliver anything important.

    He doesn't even need to get Congress involved. He just needs to have a chat with the Librarian of Congress and work out some quid pro quo. This won't be hard for Obama to actually accomplish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @05:17PM (#43072491)

    I had to rub my eyes there for a minute, but apparently the DMCA puts exemptions in the hands of the Librarian [wikipedia.org]

    I never envisioned a librarian making rules beyond, "keep quiet", "no reference checkouts", and fines for being overdue.

    So. Among other oddities we can now cite the DMCA for making the LoC a regulatory agency!

  • Re:Political stunt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hrvatska (790627) on Monday March 04, 2013 @05:23PM (#43072565)
    So the Obama administration shouldn't have taken a position on this? I guess I expect a presidential administration to take a position on important issues regardless of whether or not the issue is controversial. The Obama administration takes positions on plenty of other things that generate political heat.
  • by waspleg (316038) on Monday March 04, 2013 @05:32PM (#43072665) Journal

    Read what they say. It pretty much says implicitly that if you've got a contract, fuck you, otherwise "yes we believe". That covers the telecom bases. Wanna get your "free" upgrade as part of your contract and sell it to someone on CL for $200 off MSRP? Still under contract? Then Fuck You.

    Wanna switch your phone midstream?

    "This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs -- even if it isn't the one on which the device was first activated"

    What does that mean? That means AT THE END OF THE CONTRACT otherwise FUCK YOU.

    This is way less liberal than people seem to be interpreting it. They've also let the FCC in and other red tape that will ensure this moves at a typical snails pace. Read between the lines, read what it doesn't spell out.

    Is it better than nothing? Yes. Is it a full retraction and concession to public pressure? Fuck no.

    PS, I read this on Hacker News hours ago.

  • by icebike (68054) on Monday March 04, 2013 @05:47PM (#43072873)

    I had to rub my eyes there for a minute, but apparently the DMCA puts exemptions in the hands of the Librarian [wikipedia.org]

    I never envisioned a librarian making rules beyond, "keep quiet", "no reference checkouts", and fines for being overdue.

    So. Among other oddities we can now cite the DMCA for making the LoC a regulatory agency!

    Clearly Congress did not want this power to be in the hands of the Executive Branch. They wanted it out of control of any elected official.
    Their reasons for this are not exactly transparent, but I suspect money was exchanged.

    Most of the DMCA deals with books, music, movies etc. That much seems sane for the Librarian to handle.

    But cell phones only fell under the DMCA due to the necessity to circumvent encryption to bypass carriers locks. This is clearly
    a tangential area for the Library, and anytime a manufacturer wants to invoke the DMCA simply encrypting some vaguely necessary key
    is all that is needed.

    The librarian, with no prior powers of doing anything beyond sushing patrons, is now a quasi-legislative body, which is clearly beyond the
    scope of tine institution.

    This whole thing could be circumvented by the FCC making rules stating that carrier locked phones may not be imported or sold after
    some date. Other countries have done this, and it works fine.

    Every valid reason for carrier locks on a phone are obsolete. Carriers can kill IMEIs of stolen phones (including customers who walk away without satisfying their contract on a subsidized phone).

  • by genericmk (2767843) on Monday March 04, 2013 @05:50PM (#43072919)
    I think what's going to come out of it is that the contracts with carriers will be re-written. When you "buy" your smartphone at a discounted price from a carrier by all means they should own the carrier lock as it protects their "investment" into subsidizing the handset in hopes of making it back with profit (albeit disproportionately large profit) on your contract. Until your contract period is in place, I don't see why it should be allowed for you switch carriers? I suppose the gray area is oversea travel where the carrier lock forces you into paying an exuberant amount for calls. But then, they technically till own your handset so you may as well just get a prepaid phone locally and keep your smartphone as a computer with wifi access only.
  • Re:Political stunt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Artraze (600366) on Monday March 04, 2013 @06:13PM (#43073203)

    > With the Advice and Consent of the Senate.

    "With the Advice and Consent of the Senate." applies to most appointed positions. Take, for example, the Secretary of State [wikipedia.org], which is a very clearly executive branch, close to the president position. So you can't really infer anything from that.

    > It is not clear that the Librarian answers to the President. Nor is it clear that the President can remove him.

    That's certainly true, and quite probably why the position's term has defaulted to life. Still, there is more to influence than 'can vs can't fire'. If Obama says "reverse that" it would take some serious balls and justification to tell him off, even Obama doesn't threaten his job directly. And that's what I was touching on with my last statement... If the Librarian can just say 'no' without any accountability, that a pretty serious problem and some amount of shit will probably hit the fan, be it changes to the DMCA in terms of who's in charge of these exemptions, or what accountability the Librarian has to the government/people.

  • Re:The Real News (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday March 04, 2013 @08:27PM (#43074475)

    Did you note in the WH response that they supported unlocking of cells/tablets "when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation"?

    If you read the LoC's original decision, the "you can't unlock your phone" applied while you were under contract.

    In other words, no real change there.

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