Legalize It! White House Favors of Allowing Users to Unlock Cell Phones

Published On April 22, 2013 | Mobile

A hot issue in the world of consumer electronics right now is the concept of “unlocking” cell phones. Unlocking a cell phone allows users to get around the restricted carrier limit, meaning they can use their phones on another mobile phone carrier’s network. So, for example, if a user buys a phone that is offered only by T-Mobile and requires a service contact exclusively with that carrier, consumers would be able to unlock their phone and use it on AT&T or another cell phone service provider’s network.

Unlocking cell phones is currently banned by many mobile phone manufacturers who share special contracts with mobile network companies, allowing only certain mobile carriers to sell certain new phones and specific models or features of other phones.

The thinking behind the policy against unlocking cell phones is that allowing customers to purchase phones that are unlocked takes away from the competition a mobile provider gains by having a contractual monopoly on a mobile phone. However, with the high costs of most mobile phones, the argument that consumers should be allowed to choose whether or not to unlock their phone for use on other mobile networks, or even for personal purposes, is certainly justified.

White House Gives Support to Unlocking Cell Phones

The White House has said that it supports allowing consumers to unlock their cell phones and shop around for coverage after their initial contract with a mobile phone network company has expired. However, the problem is that control of this issue is decided by Congress, not the White House.

Consumers Petition Government

A consumer petition asking for the right to unlock cell phones was sent to the White House carrying more than 114,000 signatures and the White House responding by stating its support for consumers in the matter. The White House, responding through its online “We the People” petitioning platform, said cell phone users should be able to unlock their cell phones without repercussions from the law or mobile providers.

The White House also stated that it believes consumers should be allowed to do the same with tablet devices. In the opinion, White House officials stated that consumers should be allowed to use a mobile device on another network as long as users have paid for the mobile device and aren’t contractually bound by an agreement with a mobile provider. To continue to have a competitive market that delivers inventive new products and solid service, this should be followed, the White House said.

The White House said it would support a few approaches to fixing this issue, including making narrow changes in the telecommunications space which currently prevent a paying consumer from unlocking their phone when they are no longer bound by a contractually obligating contract.

However, the White House’s opinion does not settle the controversy.

Despite the overwhelming amount of support online and from the White House, there is only so much the White House can actually do to legalize the unlocking of cellphones and other mobile devices. Until a change in the current federal law prohibiting unlocking cell phones is enacted, cell phone users remain locked into service contracts.

Do you think unlocking cell phones should become legal?

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