In response to the 114,000 signature petition speaking out against the brand new law against unlocking cell phones, the White House said it thinks the law against using a phone on a different carrier is stupid, too, but where do we go from here? "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," writes Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy David Edelman. But just because the White House has said it agrees with the masses, that doesn't reverse the legislation. So, what will?
Edelman outlines a few possibilities that the Obama administration would support, including "narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation." The whole reason cell phone jailbreaking became illegal in the first place is because of vague legislation. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act outlaws technologies that bypass copyright protections, a ruling meant to prohibit piracy and protect creative works. But in practice is used by corporations to kill competition, as the Electronic Frontiers Foundation has pointed out. In order to further clarify, the DMCA leaves the choice of to the Libraries of Congress, which makes an exemption list. Up until this year, cell phone unlocking was on that list. Ergo, clarifying the language of the DMCA could help in this situation.
Taking unlocked cell phones off the list, however, was a conscious decision by the Libraries of Congress, which decided these phones no longer fell under fair use. The good news is, today the Libraries of Congress also agreed to review its initial ruling. "We also agree with the administration that the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context," writes LOC in a statement. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission, according to a statement, will work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to look at the broader policy:
From a communications policy perspective, this raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn't pass the common sense test. The FCC is examining this issue, looking into whether the agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers' ability to unlock their mobile phones. I also encourage Congress to take a close look and consider a legislative solution
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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