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  • The House Gives In, Passes Cellphone Unlocking Bill


    The bill which proposed a law that would enable cellular device users to unlock their hardware and swap carriers without penalty (something that is currently illegal), recently passed through the US Senate just last week and has now been cleared by the House of Representatives as well. Since it has successfully passed through Congress, the only thing left is for President Barack Obama to sign the piece of legislation into law, which he will be doing in the near future according to a recent White House release. President Obama said the following regarding the matter:

    I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a "We the People" petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.
    The contents of Senate Bill 517 overturn the previous decision from the Librarian of Congress, who previously dissolved an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyrights which allowed cellphones to be unlocked. After a 90-day period of time, the stipulation went into effect in January 2013.

    It should be noted that the S.517 doesn’t limit “bulk unlocking” though. An earlier version of the House of Representatives placed a clause preventing bulk unlocking, though the final draft which was sent to the White House doesn’t mention anything regarding the stipulation.

    Carriers usually “lock” phones and other devices in an effort to sell to their network and prevent customers from easily switching to competing carriers. This was previously an easy way for providers to ensure continuing subscription money from subscribers who purchased subsidized hardware (a large portion of them). Despite the move not being a favorable one for carriers, it is one that is set to be placed regardless, which is great news for consumers theoretically but we’ll have to watch and see how the carriers respond as they are likely to try and place other measures in place in order to secure additional revenue from customers.

    Source: ArsTechnica
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The House Gives In, Passes Cellphone Unlocking Bill started by Akshay Masand View original post
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. PaKi619's Avatar
      PaKi619 -
      So, if the bill is signed by the president, will we be able to unlock iPhone 6 by the carrier when it is released?
    1. jigar7's Avatar
      jigar7 -
      Quote Originally Posted by PaKi619 View Post
      So, if the bill is signed by the president, will we be able to unlock iPhone 6 by the carrier when it is released?
      AFASK, this bill enables unlocking after your contract of 18-24 months with the service provider is over. The carriers were too stubborn to quite an extent even after the contract was over... hopefully this bill will shove a pole up their a**es and enable us consumers to unlock the device after the contract is over.

      I don't see why no one wants to make this a permanent Act of some sort, fighting for it ever year or a couple of years makes it look so stupid! It's makes us look like we consumers don't have a f***ing life and we have to keep signing petitions every year. Corrupt capitalism at its best I suppose!

      The carriers offer us the phones at a "subsidized rate"? I don't think so... If one was to calculate the amount paid during the entire tenure of the contract, it's sums up to a lot more than someone else buying a factory unlocked. This is like monthly installments with a high rate of interest that comes to the consumer in the form of carrier usage bills... ridiculous! Unlocking should have been legal right from when the iPhone made its debut...
    1. xWalmartCandyx's Avatar
      xWalmartCandyx -
      I don't know anything about unlocking, so i have a question. I'm with Verizon and i wanna go to ATT because verizon is too expensive. If i unlocked my iPhone 4S (once it becomes legal) will i be able to switch to ATT before my contract runs out without paying the early termination fee?
    1. blanco10kid's Avatar
      blanco10kid -
      Quote Originally Posted by xWalmartCandyx View Post
      I don't know anything about unlocking, so i have a question. I'm with Verizon and i wanna go to ATT because verizon is too expensive. If i unlocked my iPhone 4S (once it becomes legal) will i be able to switch to ATT before my contract runs out without paying the early termination fee?
      With an iPhone 4S, unfortunately you can't switch carriers. The iPhone 4S verizon version operates at different bands than AT&T. AT&T is gsm and verizon is CDMA. Verizon can unlock the sim lock for international use but that's it.
    1. xWalmartCandyx's Avatar
      xWalmartCandyx -
      Quote Originally Posted by blanco10kid View Post
      With an iPhone 4S, unfortunately you can't switch carriers. The iPhone 4S verizon version operates at different bands than AT&T. AT&T is gsm and verizon is CDMA. Verizon can unlock the sim lock for international use but that's it.
      Damn, ok. Thanks though!
    1. offroad1994's Avatar
      offroad1994 -
      But you can go to tmobile for the $30 a month plan if all you mostly need is data, and if the coverage will work. AT&T iPhone should work on tmobile.

      ETF is paid if you are not at end of contract. No getting out of that.

      In theory you can buy an iPhone 4S on eBay for $150. Then use straight talk plan for $45 monthly. Might be cheaper than your ETF fee plus your current plan over a one year period.
    1. xWalmartCandyx's Avatar
      xWalmartCandyx -
      Quote Originally Posted by offroad1994 View Post
      But you can go to tmobile for the $30 a month plan if all you mostly need is data, and if the coverage will work. AT&T iPhone should work on tmobile.

      ETF is paid if you are not at end of contract. No getting out of that.

      In theory you can buy an iPhone 4S on eBay for $150. Then use straight talk plan for $45 monthly. Might be cheaper than your ETF fee plus your current plan over a one year period.
      I'll look into it. I would need a family plan that has more than 2GB of data.

      Edit: Tmobile only has 2G coverage in my area.
    1. offroad1994's Avatar
      offroad1994 -
      That's the tmobile problem.

      Straight talk has AT&T towers to use if you get the straight talk AT&T sim. Be careful to get the correct sim. Still only $45 monthly.

      Consumer Cellular also used AT&T towers and is also $45 monthly.
    1. xWalmartCandyx's Avatar
      xWalmartCandyx -
      But i still need to wait for my contract to expire, right?
    1. offroad1994's Avatar
      offroad1994 -
      Yes on contract. Or pay ETF. Get the phone unlocked first. You can request that now and at&t will unlock it while you are a paying customer. Then later you can cancel and pay ETF.
    1. fleurya's Avatar
      fleurya -
      Quote Originally Posted by PaKi619 View Post
      So, if the bill is signed by the president, will we be able to unlock iPhone 6 by the carrier when it is released?
      Carriers will still be able to keep phones locked that are subsidized under contract. But they will have to unlock it if you are a customer and the phone is paid for.
    1. exNavy's Avatar
      exNavy -
      Yes for at least 6 months until the next copyright/dmca meeting thingy. Correct? I don't see what the rush was to do this if they can just say again next year that this provision isn't being enacted under DMCA again.
    1. Noodles46's Avatar
      Noodles46 -
      Does this mean we will see unlocks on eBay again that aren't gonna be costing us over $30+ or is that considered "bulk unlocking"?
    1. NewdestinyX's Avatar
      NewdestinyX -
      Quote Originally Posted by Noodles46 View Post
      Does this mean we will see unlocks on eBay again that aren't gonna be costing us over $30+ or is that considered "bulk unlocking"?
      Not really.. Bulk unlockers still have to "pay off" an ATT employee to get the block of IMEI unlocks.. It's still gonna be a black market business since 95% of unlocks desired are still "in contract" unlocks. The other 5% of out of contract unlocks are already perfectly legal and your carriers will do them for free. You should never pay for an out of contract unlock on eBay - UNLESS you're not the original owner. Then you need to unlock thru a service.

      So in the final analysis this legislation didn't really address the main issue.. Which is unlocking "in contract" phone. That's still not addressed with this legislation as I read it.. That will remain black market...
    1. Aenima133's Avatar
      Aenima133 -
      From my understanding though, the 5c and 5s iPhones include all bands for all American carriers. And Verizon's iPhones already come factory unlocked anyways.
    1. Donnutt's Avatar
      Donnutt -
      This is odd. AT&T in Montana where I am will gladly unlock phones if they are out of contract but Verizon won't unlock them no matter what as they say it is illegal. The folks at my local AT&T are WAY nicer than Verizon.
    1. Aenima133's Avatar
      Aenima133 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Donnutt View Post
      This is odd. AT&T in Montana where I am will gladly unlock phones if they are out of contract but Verizon won't unlock them no matter what as they say it is illegal. The folks at my local AT&T are WAY nicer than Verizon.
      I haven't tried it myself because I don't have an AT&T SIM card handy, but this seems pretty legit to me.

      http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1637205
    1. Donnutt's Avatar
      Donnutt -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aenima133 View Post
      I haven't tried it myself because I don't have an AT&T SIM card handy, but this seems pretty legit to me.

      http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1637205
      I have put an AT&T SIM in my buddy's Verizon iPhone 5, and yes. It works.
    1. Aenima133's Avatar
      Aenima133 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Donnutt View Post
      I have put an AT&T SIM in my buddy's Verizon iPhone 5, and yes. It works.
      Well wouldn't that mean it's already unlocked then?
    1. Donnutt's Avatar
      Donnutt -
      Yes, the gsm part of a Verizon phone are unlocked.