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The FCC is waking up to the fact that banning the unlocking of cell phones may not be in the best interest of consumers, following a petition that garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

The “ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told TechCrunch.  “It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones,” he added.

The petition, which was penned by San Francisco resident Sina Khanifar, takes issue with the Library of Congress’s decision making it illegal to unlock a newly purchased phone.

Khanifar is pleased with the latest comments from the FCC, but believes Congress ultimately has to act in order to change the decision, which is impacting innovation, small business and the consumer.

“I think it’s a really interesting development and I’m excited to see how it plays out,” Khanifer said.  “I’d much rather see a congressional bill that changes sections 1201 of the DMCA to make jailbreaking and unlocking legal, but the FCC considering this is definitely movement in the right direction.”

As of January 26, 2013, users unlocking phones would be in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Section 1201 anti-circumvention rule.  For six years, the Library of Congress exempted cell phone unlocks from the DMCA. The decision was reversed during the last round of triennial reviews.

Many consumers disagree with the new policy because they believe once they buy a phone, they should be able to do whatever they want with the device, including unlocking it in order to switch carriers.

The petition met the 100,000 signature mark required to receive a response from the White House after a push from the most popular Anonymous account on Twitter, YourAnonNews, and from a post on Reddit.  The petition also grabbed the attention of smaller U.S. cell carriers.

The Competitive Carriers Association, which represent 100 carrier members that cover more than 95 percent of the nation, said on its website that it strongly supports the petition.

“CCA strongly supports allowing customers to unlock their phones to use them on a different network and encourages the White House to advocate on consumers’ behalf by denouncing the Librarian’s short-sighted decision and championing a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.”

The fact that over 100 wireless carriers are against the ruling speaks volumes.  Who does this new rule benefit exactly?  Likely the telecommunications lobby, who make a boatload on contracts that tie smartphone users to their carriers.  Let’s hope the little guy wins out on this one.


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