Nation & World News

Bill Allowing Americans To Unlock Cellphones Passes House, Heads To Obama

By Bill Chappell on July 25th, 2014

Approving a bill that has already passed the Senate, the House of Representatives has given its consent to legislation that lets U.S. consumers “unlock” their cellphones, rather than having them remain linked to specific service providers.

President Obama says he will sign the bill into law, applauding Congress today for taking “another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cellphone carrier that meets their needs and their budget.”

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., was passed by a vote of 295 to 114 Friday; the Senate version, championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was approved 10 days ago.

The legislation repeals a recent ruling by the Library of Congress that found copyright laws could be strictly enforced over “locked” phones because of evolution in the cellphone marketplace.

But critics had said the rule hurt several groups of consumers: those who wanted to link their phones to overseas carriers when they traveled; those who wanted to switch carriers; and those who wanted to sell phones they’ve bought through a wireless company.

After today’s House vote, Laura Moy, staff attorney at advocacy group Public Knowledge, said the new law would boost competition in the wireless market and “improve the availability of free and low-cost secondhand phones for consumers who cannot afford to purchase new devices.”

She also said “it will keep millions of devices out of landfills.”

The new law would re-establish an exemption to a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that prohibited unlocking a phone. The bill also directs the Librarian of Congress to review whether the exemption should apply to tablets and other devices as well as phones.

In February 2013, a public petition to legalize “unlocking” phones blew past the White House’s 100,000-signature threshold that requires a response; later that year, President Obama asked the Federal Communications Commission to legalize the practice.

As NPR’s Laura Sydell has reported, the FCC agreed on terms with wireless carriers in December, in a deal that would require companies such as AT&T and Verizon to unlock a phone from their networks, but only if a customer asks them to — and only if their contract has ended.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

Vanya Shivashankar, left, of Olathe, Kan., and Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Mo., lift the trophy after becoming co-champions Thursday night after the final round of the 88th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Oxon Hills, Md.

National Spelling Bee Crowns Co-Champs For Second Straight Year

Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar went back and forth so long the judges were running out of words. Told he needed one more correct spelling to forge a tie, Gokul needed nothing but the word.


Then-U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert greets a supporter in Yorkville, Ill., in August 2007, after he announced that he would not seek another term in Congress. Hastert was indicted May 28 on charges of evading cash-withdrawal reporting requirements and lying to the FBI, in connection with what the indictment described as $3.5 million in hush money slowly taken out and paid to an unnamed individual.

Former House Speaker Hastert Indicted In Probe Into $3.5M In Withdrawals

The Illinois Republican is accused of taking the money out in chunks of less than $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, and of lying to the FBI about it.


FCC Chairman Wants To Help Low Income Americans Afford Broadband

Tom Wheeler proposes to reboot the Lifeline phone-access program. The plan recognizes that everyone needs to study, apply for jobs and make social connections online.


A return to Pussy Galore's golden days: Honor Blackman, who played the character on screen in Goldfinger, poses with the original Bond, Sean Connery.

‘Trigger Mortis': New Bond Novel Brings Back Pussy Galore

For author Anthony Horowitz, the book is a return to the “true” James Bond. This means an unpublished scene from Ian Fleming himself — and a long-delayed reunion with a franchise favorite.


FIFA President Sepp Blatter addresses the audience at the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich Thursday. The leader of soccer's governing body has rejected calls for him to resign.

FIFA President Blatter: Bribery Scandal Puts ‘Long Shadow’ Over Soccer

Embattled FIFA President Sepp Blatter faces a re-election vote Friday, in the face of new corruption and bribery charges against senior members of FIFA.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments