Just last week the Senate passed a new bill that would allow users to unlock their phones without explicit consent from the carrier it is locked to, provided they own the device or the contract connected to it has expired. At the time we reported that the House of Representatives had already passed a similar bill, but slight differences between the two bills meant that House and Senate would need to reach some sort of compromise before the bill could be passed into law.
As it turns out, the House of Representatives has now unanimously passed the Senate’s version of the bill, throwing out the House’s original ban on bulk unlocking. What this means is that after two years, cellphone locking is finally becoming legal again. For those unaware, the legality of cellphone locking came into question in the United States when a DMCA exemption allowing phone unlocking (without carrier approval) expired in 2012. Since then we’ve heard all sorts of talk about passing laws or making changes that would reverse the decision but, until now, no actual changes had been made.
So what’s next? With both the Senate and House approving the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act”, it’s now just a matter of getting the bill signed into law by the President. For those fearing that the bill will be turned down at the last moment by Obama, we wouldn’t worry about it too much, considering the President has long since expressed interest in making cellphone unlocking legal for US consumers.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated when the bill is officially signed into law. What do you think of the new bill? Does it go far enough, or do you think locking a cellphone to a carrrier shouldn’t be legal in the first place?