Talking tech since 2003

A new law that would allow phone unlocking for carrier-switching customers has made it through the House, and will now head to President Obama’s desk, according to GigaOM. The President, who stated that the bill will give American wireless customers “more flexibility and choice,” is expected to sign it into law.

unlocked-iphoneThe bill was born out of wireless customer discontent; more specifically, customers who took to the White House petition website to voice their frustrations about paying for a phone that couldn’t be used on other carriers. You see, phone customers in the United States have been getting a raw deal from carriers for a long time. When the next big product comes out — say, an iPhone or a Galaxy device — customers front about $200 of that phone’s $600-$700 cost, and then pay the remaining balance as part of their monthly bill for two years.

That’s nice; the problem is, once customers fulfill their two year agreement, they own the phone but can’t unlock it and take it to a new wireless carrier. Unlocking it, according to present-day law, would be a violation of the DMCA — an act that almost certainly wasn’t written to stop cell phone unlocking. The restriction today is nothing more than a way for companies to limit choice and keep customers locked in, but it appears that we’re just a few pen strokes away from some better policy.

But even that good news isn’t completely good. If the bill is signed by the president and becomes law, it won’t be permanent. The issue would again be brought before the Library of Congress in 2015, and that body would then rule on whether or not cell phones should be unlocked.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this one and will update when Obama makes his move. In the meantime, what do you think of the bill and the potential for phone unlocking after a wireless agreement expires? Are you on board or do you think wireless companies should be able to keep phones locked? Drop us a line below.

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