Blame it on the petition to build a Death Star and the government's shooting down the proposal because of budgetary constraints. Because the White House raised the minimum number of “we the people” petition signatories from 25,000 to 100,000, we mobile phone lovers would have to work harder for something that many believe is our right as consumers. Phone unlocking is now illegal, you may have heard. But if you want to ask government to rule otherwise, you may still have a chance if you sign a petition.
I earlier wrote about a WhiteHouse.gov “we the people” petition to make unlocking legal, which needs 100,000 signatures before authorities are compelled to make a response or act on the matter. The petition starter, Sina Khanifar, got in touch with us to say the petition needs more signatures, and that the petition is running out of time. As of writing, the “Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal” petition has garnered 71,994 signatures and will need 28,006 more in order to reach the goal. The campaign only has until February 23, which is five days from now.
“The decision to remove the exemption for unlocking phones is bad for consumers, and it’s up to our elected officials to help defend consumer rights,” says Khanifar in an article explaining the circumstances behind his launching of this campaign. In gist, he says consumers should be able to decide which carrier to use, whether domestically or abroad (to save on roaming fees). Carrier lock-ins are protected by pre-termination fees, anyway, so carriers' contracts are protected should a user decide to cut short the two-year contract, which often subsidizes the handset cost.
It can be argued that government and carriers would not care anyway if you unlocked your phone. But what the ban affects is the developers that create unlocking tools. Khanifar himself was sued by Motorola under the DMCA for creating software tools for unlocking their phones. Without these tools, then users might find it more difficult to unlock our devices.
And there's a precedent of prosecuting consumers in the recording industry. If the RIAA can sue 9 year olds and grandmothers for “illegally” downloading songs, then what's stopping carriers for suing its users who unlock phones? (I'm not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one, though, so this is just an observation.)
Do you want phone unlocking to be legal? Then head over to the source link to sign the petition.