Following recent bill to legalize cellphone unlocking in US, many regional and rural wireless providers are backing Congress bill that would allow consumers to unlock mobile phones and tablets without carrier’s permission. The bill instructs the FCC to order network carriers to allow their customers to unlock their phones or tablet computers after completing the contractual agreement.
“Smaller carriers have a very difficult time getting access to smartphones and handsets,” said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents such companies as U.S. Cellular Corp. (USM) and Bluegrass Cellular. “The unlocking is one way the consumer can make the decision that I can try someone else who has better coverage in the area where I live or play.”
For six years, the US Librarian Of Congress exempted device unlocking from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). But during another round of review, the decision was overturned in favour of carriers and cell phone unlocking was made illegal again in January 2013. People, who try unlocking their phones themselves, expose them to lawsuits from wireless carriers for circumventing copyright laws.
To challenge the ban imposed by the Librarian of Congress, a petition was filed on whitehouse.gov that gathered more than 114,000 signatures. To protect consumer choice, both FCC and White House then advocated cell phone unlocking.
Even major US carrier AT&T released a statement on its Public Policy Blog saying that cell phone unlocking doesn’t need government intervention; the company already unlocks phones and locked tablets. But only supports unlocking when consumers have fulfilled their contractual obligations — has been active for at least 60 days and account is in good standing with no unpaid balance — or for reasons such as a trip outside the U.S.
Currently, as many as 18 carriers offer iPhone in US and many others are interested in offering the device too. If the legal shield is removed in US again, those customers, who are not satisfied with the carrier network can easily hop and change to their regional carrier.