Obama administration endorses legalizing the unlocking of cell phones & tablets

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration made a statement on Monday publicly supporting the ability of users to legally unlock their cell phones and other devices for use with the carrier of their choosing.

Unlocked iPhone 5


The statement was made in response to a citizen petition filed with the White House, entitled "Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal." That petition was created in response to a Library of Congress ruling made in late 2012 that determined cell phone unlocking would be removed as a legal exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Writing on behalf of the administration, R. David Edelman, senior advisor to the Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy, said the White House agrees with the more than 100,000 people who signed the online petition.

"Consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties," he said. "In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smartphones. 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."

Calling those rights "common sense," Edelman said ensuring the ability of consumers to unlock their devices is "crucial for protecting consumer choice.""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." ? White House Senior Advisor R. David Edelman.

While the statement is a win for those who believes consumers should be able to unlock their phones and tablets once their service contact is completed, there's nothing currently on the table legislatively to protect those rights. But the Obama administration said it will support a range of approaches to the issue, including legislative fixes, or relying on the Federal Communications Commission to step in.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, the wireless and mobile phone industries, and most importantly you ??the everyday consumers who stand to benefit from this greater flexibility ? to ensure our laws keep pace with changing technology, protect the economic competitiveness that has led to such innovation in this space, and offer consumers the flexibility and freedoms they deserve," said Edelman.

As of Jan. 26, 2013, unauthorized unlocking of all newly purchased phones became illegal. That prompted the creation of the petition by Sina Khanifar, who spoke with AppleInsider last month.

Khanifar frequently travels from Europe to San Francisco, Calif., and said he has found cell phone locking to be not only a nuisance, but also a financial burden.

"Anyone who travels internationally, and most people do at some point, you won't be able to take your cell phone with you," he said. "Trying to use it with the existing roaming fees that carriers charge is almost impossible because they're so exorbitant."

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    "... 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."


    In this case AT&T will help you unlock it and it is not illegal. They were very helpful when I needed my old iPhone unlocked to use when traveling abroad.

  • Reply 2 of 33
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

    In this case AT&T will help you unlock it and it is not illegal.


     


    It's illegal to do it yourself.

  • Reply 3 of 33
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Khanifar frequently travels from Europe to San Francisco, Calif., and said he has found cell phone locking to be not only a nuisance, but also a financial burden.



    "Anyone who travels internationally, and most people do at some point, you won't be able to take your cell phone with you," he said. "Trying to use it with the existing roaming fees that carriers charge is almost impossible because they're so exorbitant."


     


    I tend to disagree with this statement because I don't think most people travel abroad very often or at all. Furthermore, when I travel abroad I carry two phones. One, I carry my regular iPhone 5 which is locked to AT&T because I still want to know when my stateside associates call me. I don't usually answer the phone but instead call them back using my Skype minutes. The other phone I carry is my unlocked iPhone 4 which has a local pay as you go sim so locals can call without dialing an international number. If I were to just have a local pay as you go phone I would not know when someone tried to reach me on my USA phone number.


     


    I'm not sure how Verizon phones work but as far as AT&T, if you want to have both your home and international numbers on a single device you are going to need a Nokia or some Android phone because iPhones don't offer dual sim models.

  • Reply 4 of 33
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    It's illegal to do it yourself.



     


    It's not about unlocking per se, it's about copyrights.


     


    Apple argued that modifying their OS to jailbreak and unlock it, was a copyright violation.

  • Reply 5 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    In this case AT&T will help you unlock it and it is not illegal. They were very helpful when I needed my old iPhone unlocked to use when traveling abroad.



    They will only unlock it if your phone is out of contract, period. If you have even a single month left on your commitment, forget it. Trip or no trip, they will not unlock it unless you pay the ETF. AT&T is a bunch of crooks.

  • Reply 6 of 33
    maccherrymaccherry Posts: 924member
    I see nothing wrong with this. I should be able to use my iPhone on any carrier I want granted they support that phone.Period.
    You want choice? Here you go.
  • Reply 7 of 33
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,072member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    I tend to disagree with this statement because I don't think most people travel abroad very often or at all.



     


    Really depends on the area of the world. US Americans are notorious for not travelling abroad too often. Only around 1/3 US citizens even hold a passport (as per January 2012, and this is even a record high, ten years earlier it was only around 1/8).


     


    In some European countries this ratio is more like 9/10, and because most countries are rather small, people cross borders far more often. And while some of the European telcos are offering their services in several EU countries, they still charge you for roaming, even if you are on the same carrier, just in another country.

  • Reply 8 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


     


    I tend to disagree with this statement because I don't think most people travel abroad very often or at all. Furthermore, when I travel abroad I carry two phones. One, I carry my regular iPhone 5 which is locked to AT&T because I still want to know when my stateside associates call me. I don't usually answer the phone but instead call them back using my Skype minutes. The other phone I carry is my unlocked iPhone 4 which has a local pay as you go sim so locals can call without dialing an international number. If I were to just have a local pay as you go phone I would not know when someone tried to reach me on my USA phone number.


     


    I'm not sure how Verizon phones work but as far as AT&T, if you want to have both your home and international numbers on a single device you are going to need a Nokia or some Android phone because iPhones don't offer dual sim models.





    Are local pay as you go plans worth it on the data end? When I went to Vancouver last August I couldn't find anything that made sense for the 3 days I would be there and because of that I didn't even bother looking when I went to London for a weekend

  • Reply 9 of 33
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

    It's not about unlocking per se, it's about copyrights.


     


    … It's still illegal.






    Apple argued that modifying their OS to jailbreak and unlock it, was a copyright violation.




     


    And they were shot down. Jailbreaking is legal (phones), unlocking is not.


     




















     

    Phones

    Tablets

    Jailbreaking

    Legal

    Illegal

    Unlocking

    Illegal (legal before Jan 23 yourself and any date with carrier's permission)

    Illegal (never was legal)
  • Reply 10 of 33
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by LordJohnWhorfin View Post




    They will only unlock it if your phone is out of contract, period. If you have even a single month left on your commitment, forget it. Trip or no trip, they will not unlock it unless you pay the ETF. AT&T is a bunch of crooks.



    What part of commitment do you not understand? Even so if you only had one month left on contract the ETF would probably be less than the monthly fee.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post




    In some European countries this ratio is more like 9/10, and because most countries are rather small, people cross borders far more often. And while some of the European telcos are offering their services in several EU countries, they still charge you for roaming, even if you are on the same carrier, just in another country.



    The statement in the article was made in reference to traveling from Europe to San Francisco, which if I was doing that I would still want both local and international numbers to continue to function.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by johnnyb0731 View Post




     


    Are local pay as you go plans worth it on the data end? When I went to Vancouver last August I couldn't find anything that made sense for the 3 days I would be there and because of that I didn't even bother looking when I went to London for a weekend



    In Central America, people can pay as little as three dollars for talk minutes if that is all they can afford. I'm not sure about data. I always buy a month worth (450 minutes) talk and (2GB) data for a total of $20 USD. No LTE just 4G. I'm sure the prices vary widely around the world.

  • Reply 11 of 33
    ktappektappe Posts: 808member
    I've done several searches and have not been able to find out who the Librarian of Congress reports to. It may be POTUS himself but I can't verify.

    My point being that if he does report to POTUS, why can't Obama just *tell* him to change his position? Executive order and all that. Why bother with legislation and/or the FCC?
  • Reply 12 of 33
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    mstone wrote: »
    In this case AT&T will help you unlock it and it is not illegal. They were very helpful when I needed my old iPhone unlocked to use when traveling abroad.

    That is correct. They did it for me.

    However:

    1. They are not obligated to do so. They could change their policy at any time.

    2. AT&T's competitors are not obligated to do so.

    3. It involves extra hassle and delay. When my phone was out of contract last year, I wanted to sell it to buy a newer model. It took 3 days for AT&T to unlock it.

    4. Most importantly, AT&T will only do so when you are out of contract. I would argue that this is an unfair requirement. When you sign a contract with AT&T, you are obligated to pay them $x per month for 24 months. That obligation continues even if you unlock and sell your phone, so there's no real reason why AT&T won't unlock it. In fact, if your phone remains on AT&T, they have the expense of handling your calls and data. If you give the phone to someone who uses it on a different network, AT&T still gets your monthly fee, but doesn't have any expense. Even better, if you give it to someone who signs up for AT&T or Straight Talk, AT&T double dips - they receive your payment plus payment from the new user.

    There's just no good reason for the phone to be locked.
  • Reply 13 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    What part of commitment do you not understand? Even so if you only had one month left on contract the ETF would probably be less than the monthly fee.


     


    The statement in the article was made in reference to traveling from Europe to San Francisco, which if I was doing that I would still want both local and international numbers to continue to function.


     


    In Central America, people can pay as little as three dollars for talk minutes if that is all they can afford. I'm not sure about data. I always buy a month worth (450 minutes) talk and (2GB) data for a total of $20 USD. No LTE just 4G. I'm sure the prices vary widely around the world.



    Seems to me that YOU are the one with the problem understanding what commitment is. As long as you're not cancelling your contract and keep paying your monthly subscription, you are fulfilling the commitment. Furthermore, I was answering a statement from a previous poster who claimed that AT&T would unlock your phone at any time if you told them you needed it for travel. They will not.


    Please try to improve your reading comprehension before you contribute again, thanks.

  • Reply 14 of 33
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    ktappe wrote: »
    I've done several searches and have not been able to find out who the Librarian of Congress reports to. It may be POTUS himself but I can't verify.

    My point being that if he does report to POTUS, why can't Obama just *tell* him to change his position? Executive order and all that. Why bother with legislation and/or the FCC?

    I only looked for a minute, but I didn't find the information, either. What I found is that the Librarian of Congress is appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. S/he must also report back to Congress periodically, so it may be that s/he reports to the Senate.

    As for the rest, it's not that simple. If it were simply an executive order, the President could change it. But it involves copyright laws (maybe even covered under DMCA), so the President has to work with Congress to get it changed.

    mstone wrote: »
    What part of commitment do you not understand? Even so if you only had one month left on contract the ETF would probably be less than the monthly fee.

    I don't know. What part don't you understand?

    If you sign a contract, you're obligated to pay it whether the phone stays with your existing carrier or not. It could be eaten by dinosaurs and you'd still owe your monthly fee until the contract ends. Locking the phone doesn't protect the carriers in any way.
  • Reply 15 of 33
    curmudgeoncurmudgeon Posts: 483member


    Quote:









    Apple argued that modifying their OS to jailbreak and unlock it, was a copyright violation.




     


    And they were shot down. Jailbreaking is legal (phones), unlocking is not.


     


     




















     

    Phones

    Tablets

    Jailbreaking

    Legal

    Illegal

    Unlocking

    Illegal (legal before Jan 23 yourself and any date with carrier's permission)

    Illegal (never was legal)


     




     


    Perhaps legal, but always immoral.   You agreed to a EULA, you broke your word.  

  • Reply 16 of 33
    joelsaltjoelsalt Posts: 827member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post


     


    Really depends on the area of the world. US Americans are notorious for not travelling abroad too often. Only around 1/3 US citizens even hold a passport (as per January 2012, and this is even a record high, ten years earlier it was only around 1/8).


     


    In some European countries this ratio is more like 9/10, and because most countries are rather small, people cross borders far more often. And while some of the European telcos are offering their services in several EU countries, they still charge you for roaming, even if you are on the same carrier, just in another country.



    My guess the reason for the recent increase is because as of a few years ago (5? Too lazy to check) you need a passport to get into Canada even by driving.  Not really a germane post, but either way.

  • Reply 17 of 33
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post





    There's just no good reason for the phone to be locked.


    I agree with you that for honest people who honor their commitments it would not be a problem as they would pay off their contract regardless, however, there are probably many people who might not complete their payments as obligated, regardless, of ruining their credit. With an automobile or a house, if you don't make your payments, they can repossess it. It is not that easy with a phone. They could turn it off and take you to court, but it is a lot more practical for them to just have the phone locked to deter deadbeats.


     


    When traveling abroad you can always find an inexpensive pay as you go feature phone at the grocery store or wherever. Sure it is not as convenient as having a smartphone but at least you can make and receive local calls. You just have to wait until you get near WiFi to use your locked smartphone. It really depends on the situation, whether you are on business or vacation and how long you are going to stay in the foreign country as to what the best solution would be.

  • Reply 18 of 33
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member




    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post




    Quote:



    Originally Posted by mstone View Post



    What part of commitment do you not understand? Even so if you only had one month left on contract the ETF would probably be less than the monthly fee.




    I don't know. What part don't you understand?



    If you sign a contract, you're obligated to pay it whether the phone stays with your existing carrier or not. It could be eaten by dinosaurs and you'd still owe your monthly fee until the contract ends. Locking the phone doesn't protect the carriers in any way.


    I'm not sure I follow you. We agree 100% on the commitment part. As in the previous examples I offered when you pay off your house or car they give you the title, not before. Why is a phone any different? You pay it off they give you the unlock code.

  • Reply 19 of 33
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    mstone wrote: »
    I agree with you that for honest people who honor their commitments it would not be a problem as they would pay off their contract regardless, however, there are probably many people who might not complete their payments as obligated, regardless, of ruining their credit. With an automobile or a house, if you don't make your payments, they can repossess it. It is not that easy with a phone. They could turn it off and take you to court, but it is a lot more practical for them to just have the phone locked to deter deadbeats.

    But that gets back to the basic issues being discussed here.

    When you buy a new pair of pants with a credit card, if you fail to pay, can they come strip the pants off you in the street? Yet there's no call for retailers to be able to repossess your clothes if you don't pay - and a pair of pants costs a lot less than a phone.

    They're trying to create an entirely new field of ownership that is not really in compliance with any standard practice. Ordinarily, if you buy something, it either has a lien or it doesn't. When you buy a car, you have to specifically grant the loan company with a lien on the vehicle - it's not automatic. Similarly, if you buy a home, you have to specifically grant a lien on the home. For other large purchases, you may also grant a lien (for example, the law allows for a mechanic's lien if someone does work on your home or car).

    When you buy a phone, there is no such lien. It's a free-and-clear purchase. As the owner, you have a legal right to buy, sell, or trade anything you own. The phone companies are trying to get the best of both worlds - they want the advantages of a lien, but without the disadvantages (cost of creating liens and requirement to follow consumer protection laws). That's a very pro-business and anti-consumer effort.
  • Reply 20 of 33
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    jragosta wrote: »

    If you sign a contract, you're obligated to pay it whether the phone stays with your existing carrier or not. It could be eaten by dinosaurs and you'd still owe your monthly fee until the contract ends. Locking the phone doesn't protect the carriers in any way.

    One can always pay the ETF and get out of the contract.
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