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House Passes Watered Down Cell Unlocking Bill
by Karl Bode 10:32AM Wednesday Feb 26 2014
The House has officially passed the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act." The good news? The act repeals a decision made in January of 2013 that technically made unlocking your cellphone illegal after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list. The bad news? The EFF notes that several provisions included in the bill made sure that it did significantly less for consumers that it could have.

That resulted in most consumer advocates pulling their support for the bill. Says the EFF:
quote:
Bulk unlockers acquire phones from a variety of sources, unlock them, and then resell them. By expressly excluding them, this new legislation sends two dangerous signals: (1) that Congress is OK with using copyright as an excuse to inhibit certain business models, even if the business isn’t actually infringing anyone’s copyright; and (2) that Congress still doesn’t understand the collateral damage Section 1201 is causing. For example, bulk unlocking not only benefits consumers, it's good for the environment—unlocking allows re-use, and that means less electronic waste...
The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote. The EFF and consumer advocates prefer a different House bill (The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013) because it "would limit violations of section 1201 to actual cases of copyright infringement." Annoyance over the cell unlocking restrictions resulted in a White House website petition, in turn resulting in the White House (via the NTIA) nudging the FCC to create new Part 20 rules making unlocking legal once again.

That didn't happen.

Instead, FCC boss Tom Wheeler sent a letter to the wireless industry (pdf) urging them to move more quickly to adopt voluntary guidelines requiring they make unlocking requirements clear, allow auto-unlocking after contracts expire, grant unlock approvals or denials in just a few days, and automatically inform users when they're able to unlock their devices. That's not to be confused with requiring that carriers sell unlocked handsets.

These all continue to be half measures that aren't giving consumers, or consumer advocates, what they actually want.

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IowaCowboy
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I'd want region locks

I wish the law was made so phones over a certain value (subject to inflation) sold in the US could only be activated on US carriers.

I don't care about international roaming but I want a deterrent to having my iPhone ripped out of my hands and resold overseas. The iPhone export market is really lucrative and that is fueling a lot of the iPhone thefts or so-called "Apple picking".

In the case of international roaming charges, I'm less concerned about carrier revenue and more want a theft deterrent which is why I support region locks but I support being able to activate the phone on any carrier in the country where the phone was sold.

I'd rather pay international roaming than have my phone stolen and sold overseas.
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I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.

I have not and will not cut the cord.

Ark

join:2002-06-08
Ada, MI

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Re: I'd want region locks

Well guess what? I feel completely the opposite. The ability to use my phone overseas is the most important reason to not allow SIM-locks of any kind. The fact that AT&T bullies people into not being able to even use pre-paid SIM cards overseas is completely ridiculous and should be illegal. I'd much rather existing theft laws be used to deal with phone theft. Theft is already a crime, we don't need additional bullcrap to make it a double-crime.

IowaCowboy
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Re: I'd want region locks

A law is just a piece of paper passed by the legislature and signed by the governor unless you actually catch the thief. iPhones are very easy to steal and catching the crooks are very difficult. My suggestion of region locks is the theory of security in layers just like I have locks on the entry doors to my house and a monitored security system. You need more than just laws, you need deterrents. They say the tougher the target, the less likely a crime will be committed.

Same thing with restraining orders, they are just a piece of paper; that's why there are battered women's shelters.

The lucrative iPhone export market drives Apple picking and if there are region locks, then those phones would be worthless overseas unless they wanted to activate then on a US carrier and pay the roaming charges.
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I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.

I have not and will not cut the cord.

Ark

join:2002-06-08
Ada, MI

Re: I'd want region locks

I'm sorry your phone is such a hot target. Maybe you should get a different brand phone?
Regardless, I think you basically have to be anti-freedom to support locking down phones. It hurts legitimate consumers like me and takes away my freedom to use my phone overseas. That is by and large FAR more important than dealing with thieves.

IowaCowboy
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Re: I'd want region locks

I think if you want to use an iPhone overseas you should have to pay international roaming with the region lock in place. I know Verizon used to (they may still have) a handset rental program where you can rent an international capable phone.

Like I said, I'd rather pay the whatever a minute international roaming charge than have a $749 phone stolen. International roaming is small change compared to $749 and that region lock would be a small solution to a BIG problem.

Another anti-theft solution that could be mandated on smartphones with international capability is dual SIM card slots where the US carrier SIM card has to be present and active in order to insert a foreign carrier SIM into the phone and be able to use that and you could switch between the SIMs through the phone's user settings. This could be mandated as a security feature and not a revenue feature and without the US carrier SIM card the phone is basically a $749 paperweight.
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I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.

I have not and will not cut the cord.
ptbarnett

join:2002-09-30
Lewisville, TX

1 recommendation

Re: I'd want region locks

said by IowaCowboy:

I think if you want to use an iPhone overseas you should have to pay international roaming with the region lock in place. I know Verizon used to (they may still have) a handset rental program where you can rent an international capable phone.

You apparently don't have any idea how much AT&T and Verizon charge for international roaming, or how much it costs to rent another phone. Unless you don't plan to use it more than a few minutes a day, it is usually cheaper to BUY a phone, and get a local SIM.

When I've worked for a few weeks in another country, I also found it was very useful to have a local phone number. Your suggestion for a dual-SIM phone is interesting, but not practical for today's phones. The iPhone has downsized their SIM twice in its short lifetime, leaving more room for the battery and other electronics.

Ark

join:2002-06-08
Ada, MI
I don't want to use an iPhone anywhere, at all, ever. I want to use my Galaxy S3 overseas. Unfortunately, I have to wait 8 months for the privilege and freedom of using my own phone that I own how I see fit.
You sound like you work for a phone company, or are a paid shill, because I honestly can't believe any normal consumer would think taking away freedoms from people is a good thing, all because you're worried about some remote possibility of your phone being stolen.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA
You dual SIM card idea is a horrible idea waiting for abuse. Sorry, from a security standpoint I can think of several different ways to use that against you.

quetwo
That VoIP Guy
Premium
join:2004-09-04
East Lansing, MI
As somebody who roams to Europe regularly for my job, I can tell you that you that one trip could easily blow away the cost of a $750 phone. With Verizon, and no discounts on an international capable phone, you are at $1.72/minute and $1.25/sms for domestic or international calls. Last I checked, it was something like $0.15/MB for data too. Calls to other cell phones result in an additional $1.25/minute upcharge. So, essentially, within 250 minutes, no texts and no data, you would have a brand new iPhone.

A pre-paid SIM card would give me about 1,200 minutes for about $15 on Deutsche Telekom.

IowaCowboy
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Re: I'd want region locks

I just looked up Brazil (where my friend who came on a work visa lives) and that will set me back $1.99 a minute if I go visit him. I guess ill use the phone to check in and that's it. The data is highway robbery, I'd probably go without data for the trip, $20.48 a MB.

I don't know if I'd trust Wi-Fi in a foreign country.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

Re: I'd want region locks

Why wouldn't you trust WiFi in a foreign country? As long as you use SSL/HTTPS, you'll be no worse off than in this country with the NSA sniffing around.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA

Re: I'd want region locks

Right. It's the same technology in Europe as here.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA
Unfortunately, your extra layer of security (region lock) is actually not going to help much. It's trivial to unlock an iPhone. What your idea would accomplish is a false sense of security and hassling of legitimate users. Maybe keep some congress critters in office a little longer too.

In the end, all law is just paper until it is enforced.

IowaCowboy
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Re: I'd want region locks

I was thinking the region locks could be hardware based where they can only be removed by modifying the hardware, it other words it would be embedded in the firmware of the device.

The devices with the region locks could be on the devices sold from the carriers, you could always buy a fully unlocked device option through the manufacturer.

I just want to put a dent in the iPhone export black market.
--
I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.

I have not and will not cut the cord.

Steve Mehs
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Re: I'd want region locks

How often do you travel overseas?

IowaCowboy
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Re: I'd want region locks

I've never traveled overseas but if I did I'd probably use my iPhone with my Verizon SIM since Verizon phones will only accept Verizon SIM cards.

I've never been out of the country in my 30 years but I may head up to Canada in the future. I'd probably set the roaming to voice only. I have a friend that lives in Brazil as I worked with him (he was here on a work visa) at my former job. I may someday find myself in Rio de Janeiro or I may travel to Europe. I again would use the phone for voice only and just go without internet for the time being. I could also buy an international voice/data plan from Verizon.
--
I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.

I have not and will not cut the cord.

Steve Mehs
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Re: I'd want region locks

quote:
I've never traveled overseas....
So you want to impose restrictions on something that makes it more expensive and difficult to do something in which you have no first hand experience in?

buddahbless

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Re: I'd want region locks

I agree with you Mr Steve those that don't travel have no idea what the rest of us have to incur. It would have been better If mr. Cowboy suggested For a way to lock the phone aFter they have been stolen but rambling about region locking is fruitless.

As the sAying goes " it's better to be thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt".

buddahbless

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Mr cowboy although I applaud you for trying to come up with a solution for stolen phones you are definitely miss guided in your thoughts. what you're suggesting with only hamper the end uses rights to use there phone as they please. May I suggest if you are that worried about your iPhone being stolen you do with the Majority of Americans do You purchase insurance. I myself travel to Canada often 4 to 5 times at least a year. I could easily rack up the cost of your phone in one year just with roaming fees alone. yet I don't and I shouldn't be forced to if I can find a better rate plan option. Due to my phone being on T Mobile and fully unlocked once I'm in Canada I pop in a wind mobile sim and I'm good to go with talk text and data. for a fraction of the price I would have to pay if I were roaming.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA
A hardware lock would be difficult to unlock for legitimate uses too.
elefante72

join:2010-12-03
East Amherst, NY
»www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp···Kut9MqFH

Ark

join:2002-06-08
Ada, MI

Re: I'd want region locks

They require your phone be out of contract or they won't do it.

PapaMidnight

join:2009-01-13
Baltimore, MD
I disagree with such a heavy handed tactic. The entire point of IMEI blocking is to achieve this very purpose. What needs to happen is carriers need to work together to adopt a common list, and then to block phones that are added.

IowaCowboy
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Re: I'd want region locks

What's to say an overseas carrier will comply with an IMEI block list, if the phone has a hardware based region lock, then it can be engineered to operate on the US frequencies as primary and overseas as secondary and reject a non-US SIM card.

Or maybe they could engineer phones to have two SIM card slots but the US carrier SIM card has to be active and present for the phone to work on a foreign SIM.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA
Funny thing is that IMEIs can also be change on many phones with the right tools that I would assume mass exporters would have access to...
Kearnstd
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I am against any and all forms of regional lockouts with all forms of electronics and entertainment. No company should have a right to tell me where I can and cannot use the device or content once they have my money.
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bmccoy

join:2013-03-18
Port Orchard, WA
SIM region locking will not solve this problem. You can easily just take the SIM card out of a phone, and it would be unlocked. This would only benefit the ISPs who would charge an arm and a leg for roaming.

Ark

join:2002-06-08
Ada, MI

Unlock?

Please tell me that if this law passes, AT&T will be forced to allow me to unlock my phone that is still has 8 months left of a 24 month contract!

dvd536
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Re: Unlock?

even if it passes, you'd need to finish contract first before you could unlock.
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Ark

join:2002-06-08
Ada, MI

Re: Unlock?

Then this law doesn't do nearly enough. Locking the phone should be illegal to begin with. I have a contract to pay for service for 24 months, 8 months of which are left, and I'll keep paying that. But I own the phone outright regardless of the 8 months left, and if I want to use a pre-paid SIM overseas, it's my right to do so, and AT&T is basically abusing their power to not let me.

quetwo
That VoIP Guy
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East Lansing, MI

Re: Unlock?

Well, a part of your agreement to sign up for service was that they subsidize your phone for you, so you don't have to pay the full price of the phone. You paid a fraction of the real cost of the phone, and they amortize that cost of the remainder over the life of your contract. You are still "paying the phone off", and don't own it free-and-clear.

Ark

join:2002-06-08
Ada, MI

Re: Unlock?

Part of the agreement I signed when I bought my house states that I have to keep paying for 30 years. That doesn't mean I can't paint the walls, add on an extra room, or otherwise do as I please with the house until those 30 years are up.
Part of the agreement I signed when I bought a car was that I have to keep paying for 4 years. That doesn't prevent me from taking the car to another country, adding non-OEM-approved parts, or otherwise prevent me from doing as I please with the car until those 4 years are up.

Now, on the other hand, when I signed up for Dish, I had an agreement to keep paying for 2 years, but I can't do as I please with the receiver they sent me. Why? Because it's leased. I have to give it back if I cancel service, but Dish will replace it if it breaks.
Same goes for my cable modem. I'm leasing it from Comcast and have to give it back if I cancel service, but Comcast will replace it if it breaks.

So which is it with cell phones? Do you own them, or do you lease them? It seems like AT&T wants it both ways. I'm pretty sure I own my phone though, and am just paying it off over 2 years through a loan more or less. Which means, I have every damn legal right to use it as I see fit*, and AT&T is infringing on those rights by not unlocking my phone.

*Yes, there are obvious exceptions like not doing anything illegal, and staying within FCC guidelines, etc, just as there would be for my car or house.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

Re: Unlock?

I don't disagree about locking but a $300 subsidy on a $600 dollar phone has mighty little room for recourse if a customer decides to bail on the contract. A house and a car can be repossessed and unless you trash them, they are often worth at least what is owed on them. (One reason why they don't create car loans for 30 years...)

Recovering a phone because a customer didn't meet their contractual obligation isn't going to happen. They'll charge you the ETF and eventually sell the overdue account to a collection agency for 40 cents on the dollar. If the collection agency gets half of what you owe, they make a bit of money.

By locking the phone where it will only work on one system, they can kill the phone so that neither the original customer or future customers can ever use it again. That becomes the carrot for the customer to complete their contractual obligation.

As long as they unlock it when the contract is over, I'm OK with it.

Mr Guy

@charter.com
Unless you're going to T-Mobile your phone wouldn't work on another carrier anyway.

•••••

newview
Ex .. Ex .. Exactly
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Congress cannot see the forest for the trees

quote:
... the latest version of the bill contains new language expressly excluding “bulk unlocking.” Bulk unlockers acquire phones from a variety of sources, unlock them, and then resell them. By expressly excluding them, this new legislation sends two dangerous signals: (1) that Congress is OK with using copyright as an excuse to inhibit certain business models, even if the business isn’t actually infringing anyone’s copyright; and (2) that Congress still doesn’t understand the collateral damage Section 1201 is causing. For example, bulk unlocking not only benefits consumers, it's good for the environment—unlocking allows re-use, and that means less electronic waste ...
»www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/02/wr···new-ones

Unchain Your Phone With the Unlocking Technology Act
»bit.ly/MutPWw

inteller
Sociopaths always win.

join:2003-12-08
Tulsa, OK

calling this watered down is pretty lame

All it does is ban bulk unlocking. This is a minor inconvenience, but all it means is if someone wants to sell their phone to a business for resale, they will need to get it unlocked first and then the company they sell it to will need to verify it is unlocked to give them full value of the phone. That's it!

What this bill will do, if passed into law, is stop the EGREGIOUS unethical and immoral policies in place right now by ATT to not unlock LEGALLY OWNED phones by users who are on MVNOs yet want to take their phones overseas and use local SIMs.

In a broader sense I hope this law is effective enough to end carrier exclusives altogether and encourage more direct unlocked phone sales to consumers that support all GSM and LTE bands in the US. This is how it works in Europe.

We shouldn't be against this bill because it is better than nothing that we have right now.
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