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.
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.