FCC questions ban on unlocking cell phones

By , Mar 1, 2013

AT&T Permanent Unlock

The federal government is expressing concern about the recent criminalization of unlocking cell phones. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Thursday his office will look at the subject to see if and what the agency can do. Earlier this year, an exemption in a digital copyright law expired, prompting outrage from some mobile phone owners.

The head of the FCC said he is “concerned” that a return to the ban on unlocked cell phones could stifle competition or limit innovation. As Cody reported last month, a White House petition calling for again allowing unlocking drew more than 100,000 signatures…

Although he is unsure whether the FCC should permit consumers to unlock their cell phones, Genachowski told TechCrunch writer Gregory Ferenstein that reinstating the ban “raises competition concerns, it raises innovation concerns.”

Ferenstein opines that should the FCC discover “some latent authority to give users more freedom over their choice in carriers, it will mean another big victory for grassroots Internet activism”.

After the ban went into effect, netizens quickly rushed to demand an answer from the White House, sending over 100,000 signatures on the WeThePeople petition platform, which mandates that the Obama administration offer an official explanation.

The FCC Director noted he’s uncertain whether his agency even has the authority to extend an exemption in the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That exemption, in place for the past six years by the Library of Congress, stopped enforcement of the Act’s ban on “circumvention” of copy protection.

For some time, cell phone providers have relied on device locking to prevent subscribers from leaving without paying hefty early-termination fees. Increasingly, hackers have provided ways for consumers to unlock their phones, allowing subscribers to use a handset at another carrier.

In February, a group of activists used a way for citizens to petition the White House. The WeThePeople feature at the whitehouse.gov website pledges any petitions garnering more than 100,000 signatures will get an official response from the Obama administration.

We are unsure whether the FCC comments are hints that the administration is prepared to overturn the ban on unlocking cell phones. At any rate, if anything should be illegal, it’s legislation that prevents users from unlocking their devices and using them with any carrier they want.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dante.arellano1 Dante Arellano

    Almost at any country has unlocking iphones why no here?

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      MONEY

  • http://www.facebook.com/xhArRiSoNxD Harrison Grant

    I agree forcing us to use our devices on a certain carrier should be illegal.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      they have money to control politicians..

      • Adrian12369

        Yup…this reminds me of a paper I wrote and did research on the subject before. It was about GMO’s and how supporters of it are in the government as well.

  • Brian Gates

    its gay honestly why the us is trying to limit us i live here and its getting on my FUCKING NERVES

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      MONEY.. welcome to capitalism

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604885391 Richard Borkovec

        Sadly, that’s NOT capitalism. True capitalism would have every phone unlocked, with or without contract, so you can choose who you want. That way. companies have to compete for your business. This is about greed, plain and simple.

      • http://www.facebook.com/justin.thurmond Justin Thurmond

        Thats damn right. This isnt capitalism.. Its dumbasses who need to be taught how to live right with a big fist in there face

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        umm it is extreme capitalism.. lolo yall dont understand how capitalism destroys you economic system and creates what we see today… just as excessive socialism leads to Communism capitalism leads to something more evil for which we do not yet have a word..

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604885391 Richard Borkovec

        No, we (meaning the average person) do understand it, but the government keeps claiming it’s all about the “free market” and “capitalism”, when it’s not. Their veil is slowing burning down, and they don’t like that at all.

      • EpicFacepalm

        I know worst, State Capitalism. Just look at China and you’ll see it is not Communism instead it is State Capitalism and this is misunderstood by the majority of the people.

    • ghulamsameer

      I thought we were passed making “gay” and “stupid” synonymous.

      • http://twitter.com/x_rus_x Vitaliy Anonymous

        Since when?

      • pauleebe

        Since this isn’t middle school.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jhonny1x Jonathan Jaimes

    Stupid company’s they can go to hell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justin.thurmond Justin Thurmond

    I signed that petition.. The only reason i believe in hell is because of greedy corrupt people. It helps me sleep at night thinking about a demonic being torturing these bastards with the most horrible forms of pain imaginable. I cant wait til price fixing data is made illegal. These cell data providers are the best and worst in one fell swoop.

  • Tom

    I had to post ads on every city to raise votes

  • pauleebe

    The fact that this is a QUESTION is a huge problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fmbar00 Fabio Rodrigues

    I hope they find power to change, today I called sprint to have an iphone 4S unlocked for international, the phone was bought out-of-contract, and they said???? a big N-O! because the customers didn’t have fulfilled the 18 months of contract, with at least 12 months of “no late” payments, that is ridicullous, I fell sorry for customers from this sh*$*% company :(

    other companies have their con too, but sprint is by far the worst company here where I leave…

  • Yuri

    In south africa thy only lock prepayed phones
    Contract phones are unlocked

  • felixtaf

    Making it illegal is a JOKE and the penalty is RIDICULOUS…

  • http://www.unlockboot.com/ UnlockBoot

    Breaking: It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking
    Obama responded to the petition, and Unlocking is LEGAL again.
    Cheers!

  • Joelseph Peery

    I also signed this petition, but what I found interesting about all of this is that the Head Librarian from the Library of Congress passed this into law, with no oversight (like going across the President’s desk for the veto review) don’t we have a process for this? (you know that cartoon from the 70’s, I’m Just A bill, I’m Only a Bill). Since when do we assign law making to the Library of Congress instead of our elected officials in Congress, I love that all these laws get passed, modified, magically appear, and we never here about any of it, until it goes into affect, (maybe we won’t notice wink wink), but we sure know what the current sports, weather, and traffic are (keep them distracted I know ORANGE ALERT, wink wink).