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White House says making unlocking phones illegal was a bad idea, aims to fix it

March 4, 2013
The whole cell phone unlocking thing left a bad taste in the mouths of Americans. It’s bad enough that developers get hounded by carriers for unlocking bootloaders and obtaining root, but unlocking the SIM and changing carriers was something we all thought we’d have forever. Until we didn’t have it anymore. In response, a petition was started at the official White House website to get that overturned. A couple week ago, my esteemed colleague J. Angelo Racoma reported that the petition had a whopping 100,000 signatures. Now, the White House has responded.

Their response? That the petition signers were right in their thinking. Apparently, the White House agrees that this whole phone unlocking business is just as absurd as we do. They don’t say it in so many words, but here’s what they did say.

It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.

We don’t say this very often, but we agree with that statement 100%. It is all true after all and the White House response hit the nail on the head. They go on to explain how current DMCA regulations are, “too rigid and imperfect for this telecommunication issue.” It’s all music to our ears.

Okay so the White House said a bunch of nice things, how are they going to fix it?

This is where it gets a little vague. The White House starts by saying they’ll be open to a range of ways to fix the unlocking problem. They also promise to work with Congress, NTIA, wireless and mobile industries, and us (the people) to see this resolution solved. One part that may draw a chuckle is how they kind of throw FCC Chairman Genachowski under the bus by linking to his concern about making phone unlocking legal again. Their plan is to send the NTIA to the FCC to talk more about this whole mess.

Most of it is too vague to get overly excited, but if they follow through with the actions outlined in their official statement, then it’ll be a little faith in humanity restored. After all, as the White House states, “all consumers deserve that flexibility.” Feel free to let us know what you think about all this in the comments.