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Leahy, Grassley Unveil New Cell Phone Unlocking Bill
by Karl Bode 09:00AM Tuesday Jun 24 2014
In January of last year unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list. It technically remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it without carrier permission. The absurdity of that concept 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.

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.

While the agreement helps, like most voluntary, self-regulatory efforts it falls short of what most digital rights advocates and consumer advocates would prefer (like oh, simply selling phones unlocked and letting users modify the devices they often pay up to $700 for). To that end, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) this week introduced the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (pdf).

“Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider," Leahy said in a statement. "Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in the wireless marketplace."

Previous bills that attempted to right the unlocking ship found themselves saddled with wireless lobbyist language banning bulk unlocking, resulting in consumer advocates withdrawing their support for those bills. This new bill eliminates that bulk unlocking language added by carriers, and as such consumer advocates support this new bill -- for now.

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PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1

Who pays $700?

Most people buy subsidized phones under contract.
--
Add a signature here

TAZ

join:2014-01-03
Tucson, AZ
kudos:3

Re: Who pays $700?

People who buy subsidized phones under contract.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

2 recommendations

I agree, you should be free to unlock the phone as long as you purchased the phone at full retail.

It should be like a car loan, the carrier should be able to keep the lock in place until they've recouped the investment (you've fulfilled the 2 year contract), just like a car can be repoed until it's paid off.
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Stop the Comcast-Time Warner merger, I'd rather Time Warner buy out Comcast.

tshirt
Premium
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5

Re: Who pays $700?

In fact the amounts should be separated in the billing and you should be able to pay off the phone purchase balance at anytime and quit the "contract". this is more about truth in lending, then telecom.

TAZ

join:2014-01-03
Tucson, AZ
kudos:3

Re: Who pays $700?

e.g. T-Mobile

burner50
Proud Union THUG
Premium
join:2002-06-05
Fort Worth, TX
kudos:1

Re: Who pays $700?

said by TAZ:

e.g. T-Mobile

...and sprint...

linicx
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2002-12-03
United State
The two year contract. At $50/month it's still $1200 phone with no frills.
--
Mac: No windows, No Gates, Apple inside
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL
Except for the fact that you're contractually obligated to pay the ETF if you terminate early, so it isn't like the carrier is coming to take the phone back, even if you leave early. Even if they can't get the ETF out of you voluntarily, they don't want the phone back. They'll just ruin your credit and possibly sue you.

Also, consider that most people unlock because they don't want to pay their carrier's astronomical roaming fees when they travel internationally. If I contract with Verizon, I'm agreeing to pay their monthly charges, but why should I also be locked into paying them if I go overseas if my phone is capable of using another carrier's SIM? And, as long as I'm still paying my monthly bill, I'm honoring my contract, so the carrier is getting their money. Making me roam with my carrier's SIM isn't like making sure I'm paying off my car loan; it's more akin to making me buy gas for my car with a credit card from the finance company at 25% APR.

tshirt
Premium
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: Who pays $700?

said by ISurfTooMuch:

Except for the fact that you're contractually obligated to pay the ETF if you terminate early,

Do you think that is to keep you locked in to provider A? or to protect the balance due on the phone purchase? The second is legit, the first MAY be, ie if ALL service contracts disappear, network planning and expansion becomes extremely unpredictable, which drives up the cost, and everyone is 'competing' against the cheapest service (until it's limited investment/network/reliability drives users away.)
High churn rates= less investor certainty=higher capital costs.

On the otherhand the incentive to pay off the phone in advance is to get out from under the high (but sometimes hidden in the service cost/fees) interest people are paying on the hardware. if the contract remains at a higher price(still paying the phone subsidy/interest penalty) the incentive doesn't exist.

Phone service providers MUST separate the phone purchase from the service contract.
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

Re: Who pays $700?

They should, but I don't think they will. After all, would you want to show your customers how much that $199 phone they're buying every couple of years is really costing them?

chip89
Premium
join:2012-07-05
Independence, OH
Except Verizon sells unlocked iPhones!
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

Re: Who pays $700?

said by chip89:

Except Verizon sells unlocked iPhones!

They do, at this point. And there was a time when all Cingular quad-band phones were also sold unlocked. Not anymore.

CylonRed
Premium,MVM
join:2000-07-06
Bloom County
Enough people are not getting subsidized that a new loan business has started to provide loans to folks buying phones. Depending on the plan and how long some one keeps a phone - it can be quite a good deal to buy the phone outright.
--
Brian

"It drops into your stomach like a Abrams's tank.... driven by Rosanne Barr..." A. Bourdain

n2jtx

join:2001-01-13
Glen Head, NY

Sprint

Sprint would ignore this law anyhow. They are already ignoring the "voluntary" agreement basically stating they will never unlock any device sold by them before February 2015 and only select devices after that date. Those of us with Sprint iPhone 4S's will never get them fully unlocked by Sprint even though Apple says it can be done but Sprint has to authorize it.

I hate Sprint...
--
I support the right to keep and arm bears.

JimThePCGuy
Formerly known as schja01.
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-27
Morton Grove, IL

What does unlocking a Sprint phone get me?

Besides being able to use a phone overseas what does unlocking a Sprint phone actually get me?
Sprint Phones only work on the Sprint CDMA network so does unlocking them really get me anything?
Also Sprint won't activate a phone that isn't in it's database (eg. one it sold in the first place) so having an unlocked (non Sprint) won't work in Sprint.
What am I missing?

Anno

@68.62.236.x

Re: What does unlocking a Sprint phone get me?

said by JimThePCGuy:

Besides being able to use a phone overseas what does unlocking a Sprint phone actually get me?
Sprint Phones only work on the Sprint CDMA network so does unlocking them really get me anything?
Also Sprint won't activate a phone that isn't in it's database (eg. one it sold in the first place) so having an unlocked (non Sprint) won't work in Sprint.
What am I missing?

Hate to burst your bubble but most new phones are global and multi band thus it's going to be more and more common you can use a phone from one provider to another regardless of the GSM vs. CDMA stuff.

This isn't 2001 anymore

That said, Sprint is a bit more of a pain on all this because Sprint phones actually have 2 locks on them.

For example the Galaxy S5 has one lock that restricts international sim cards and another that restricts domestic.

But yes, these newer phones can be used CDMA or GSM...

That's why unlocking matters. It might not for people wanting to switch to Sprint but it sure does for people wanting to leave.
rmdir

join:2003-03-13
Chicago, IL

Re: What does unlocking a Sprint phone get me?

I have a Verizon Note 3 that I paid full price for at the store to avoid losing my unlimited data. The LTE band for TMobile/AT&T was locked, but I rooted it and unlocked that LTE channel. The phone was always capable of it, it just wasn't enabled. I tested it with a TMobile SIM and I did get full LTE speed on TMo's network with my Verizon phone.
Chubbysumo

join:2009-12-01
Superior, WI

There has to be a catch!

with this bill coming from Leahy, there has to be a catch, like the bill does not do anything at all I bet.

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Brighton, MA

Re: There has to be a catch!

I was going to say the same thing about Grassley.

Tomek
Premium
join:2002-01-30
Valley Stream, NY

Good Idea

Sometimes you may end up paying ETF and be left with useless phone. For example, verizon blocked their GLOBAL phones from running on TMO and ATT in states. So when I leave to TMO I cannot use my phone that I already paid for.

In my opinions, all phones should come unlocked standard. If person leaves company, then they should pay remaining balance/ETF and move on.
--
Semper Fi
desarollo

join:2011-10-01
Monroe, MI

Re: Good Idea


The carriers are their own worst enemy sometimes. They fight tooth and nail against a stolen phone blacklist when they could use that to wound phones from people who haven't paid the ETF. In essence, isn't that what locking is supposed to do? If you don't fulfill the contract and pay the ETF, you have stolen the phone.

ev

@74.140.91.x

Re: Good Idea

+1
BosstonesOwn

join:2002-12-15
Wakefield, MA
Verizon samsung note 2 on tmobile at the moment.. I have no issues at all with it.

Mark_Venture

join:2000-05-31
Thorndale, PA

Sim unlock, boot loader unlock, or both?

So are they talking about SIM unlocking only?

Or are they also including the abilities to unlock boot loaders on Android phones so you can easily flash custom roms, etc.?
--
In use... Netgear R6300.. see profile for PC and cell phone configs
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

It's a bad bill.

Because it doesn't go after the root cause - DMCA 1201, but tries to narrowly "fix" it for wireless devices (phones). What about all other devices and and media, and cases when DCMA 1201 forbids "unlocking" and causes all kind of other problems by forbidding to remove DRM for non infringing purposes?

The proper bill is to repeal DMCA 1201 altogether, i.e. to make breaking DRM legal when there is no copyright infringement.

See:
* »en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unlocking_···logy_Act
* »fixthedmca.org

This new bill is a distraction, trying to exploit the "hotness" of the mobile topic, while not fixing the real issue. I.e. if this bill passes, it would be march harder to repeal the real culprit, since they'll have an excuse that they already addressed what "public cares about".
clone

join:2000-12-11
Portage, IN
Reviews:
·T-Mobile US

In other news...

Here's a list of other things that are technically illegal:

-Speeding
-Jaywalking
-Lending DVDs to friends
-Format shifting media
-Recording or disseminating information a football game without the express, written consent of the NFL

I'll comply with the law that restricts my ability to use hardware that I fully and outright own about as well as I do the aforementioned ones. What a non-issue, no one who wants to unlock their phone actually gives a shit about this law.
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

Re: In other news...

While the law (DMCA 1201) is often disregarded as moronic (because it is), it still has damaging effects and causes harm.

Example: »en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Compu···rge_Hotz

So repealing this law is an important effort, and it should not be ignored. An example more in the context of the article is software for unlocking. Under current law one can't legally sell such software. Actually one can't distribute it all (even for free). So it's not a "non issue" situation at all.
cross12095

join:2011-04-10
Hillsboro, AL
Reviews:
·Charter

Re: In other news...

said by shmerl:

While the law (DMCA 1201) is often disregarded as moronic (because it is), it still has damaging effects and causes harm.

Example: »en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Compu···rge_Hotz

So repealing this law is an important effort, and it should not be ignored. An example more in the context of the article is software for unlocking. Under current law one can't legally sell such software. Actually one can't distribute it all (even for free). So it's not a "non issue" situation at all.

Sony had every right to go after geohot as he not only violated the PSN's tos and released his jailbreak tools to the rest of the world. This allowed the PS3 to become compromised with piracy, online cheating, etc. geohot jailbreaking the PS3 was lose lose for everyone involved! Owners of PS3 systems now have to deal with lowlife scum cheaters on games ruining the fun for everyone suffered the removal of Other OS that allowed you to install Linux, and went through the whole PSN debacle of 2011 where PSN users had their personal info compromised & the network was shut down for month because of what hackers considered as payback for going after geohot. Also remember the PSP was nearly killed because of piracy and the publishers didn't want to risk doing games on PSP, so Sony had a real fear of the same happening on the PS3. So this punk should be happy he wasn't sued into oblivion!
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

Re: In other news...

> Sony had every right to go after geohot as he not only violated the PSN's tos and released his jailbreak tools to the rest of the world.

So? DMCA 1201 declared it illegal. There is nothing wrong in distributing such tools to the world. What's wrong is some illegal copying. So I don't think you understand the problem of DMCA 1201. It forbids even non infringing activity.

> his allowed the PS3 to become compromised with piracy, online cheating, etc.

Mhm. It also allowed owners of PS3 to scrape the stupid DRM and install alternative operating systems on it, which Sony tried to prevent. What's wrong with that? Nothing. They own the hardware. Yet, DMCA 1201 declared it illegal.
decifal

join:2007-03-10
Bon Aqua, TN
kudos:1

if

If you buy your phone via contract then once that contract is up your phone should be indeed unlocked, you upheld your part of the deal.. If you buy your phone outright then it should be unlocked from the get go.. It is as simple as that.
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

Re: if

When you buy a DVD you should be able to legally back it up as well from the get go. Yet it's illegal. DCMA 1201 has no common sense at all.

•••
clone

join:2000-12-11
Portage, IN
Reviews:
·T-Mobile US
In my opinion, it shouldn't be locked regardless of the status of the contract. When you buy a phone on contract, regardless of the fact that you are in a sense paying off the phone over 24 months, the phone is not sold as a secured loan. It's sold at a discount with the understanding that you must pay an early termination fee should you decide not to keep up your service for the full 24 months.

The carrier has no legal interest in the telephone after they sell it to you. That's what the ETF is there to recover. If you choose not to pay the ETF, you get sent to a collection agency and your credit gets hit. But no where in the contract for cellular service does the carrier state that they have an interest in the handset being sold, that's the issue here. Once you sign the contract, the phone is legally 100% yours whether or not you fulfill the terms of the agreement for cellular service.

Only if the handset is explicity stated a security for a legally enforceable loan should they be able to claim any interest in the device. Otherwise, they're just trying to have their cake and eat it, too.

daktel

@69.178.194.x

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rot in hell mpaa.