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

Sen. Harry Reid Says He Won’t Seek Re-Election

The Democratic leader in the Senate announced his decision in a video. “My friend Sen. [Mitch] McConnell, don’t be too elated,” he said. “I’m going to be here for 22 months.”


NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is seen inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Star City, Russia. Kelly, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, are scheduled for launch Friday aboard a Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA To Study A Twin In Space And His Brother On Earth

During astronaut Scott Kelly’s year in space, scientists will compare his physiology with that of his twin brother, Mark, to study the effect of prolonged space flight on the human body.


Workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory used organic cat litter to clean up nuclear waste. The litter triggered chemical reactions that later caused a drum to burst.

Official Report: Nuclear Waste Accident Caused By Wrong Cat Litter

An official investigation into a 2014 accident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has concluded that cat litter is the culprit. Organic material in the litter caused a drum to burst.


Census Data Prove It: We Prefer Sunshine And Golf Carts

A new Census Bureau report suggests many Americans would rather be driving a golf cart than shoveling a drive. Last year, Florida was home to six of the 20 fastest-growing metro areas in the nation.


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, on Thursday, where he signed into law a bill that would allow business owners with strong religious convictions to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples.

Indiana’s Governor Signs ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

Among other things, the controversial new law would allow owners of businesses in the state to deny services to same-sex couples.


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