NPR : News

Filed Under:

Obama Petitions FCC To Legalize Cellphone Unlocking

The Obama administration doesn't think you should go to jail if you unlock your cellphone and move over to a new carrier.

The administration on Tuesday sent a petition to the Federal Communications Commission asking it to come up with new rules to override a law scheduled to take effect on Jan. 26, 2014. The law would make it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to unlock your cellphone without permission from your carrier.

This is an example of how the law would work: If you have an iPhone you purchased from AT&T, when your two-year contract is up and you've paid off the phone, you might decide you can get a better deal with T-Mobile. You want to take your paid-in-full iPhone with you to T-Mobile, but AT&T and other carriers lock the phones into their system. Starting next year, if you unlock without asking AT&T first you'll be violating the law.

In its petition, the Obama administration is asking the FCC to make rules that give consumers permission to unlock their phone if they own it outright. The petition also asked that consumers have the power to unlock tablets and other mobile devices.

The rule set to take effect in January came about as a result of a decision by the Library of Congress. Ever three years it issues a ruling on exemptions to the copyright law. This time around it didn't renew an exemption for cellphones.

In February, Gayle Osterberg, a spokeswoman for the Library of Congress, told NPR that during the last review the library determined it was OK for companies to decide when to unlock a phone. "The evidence showed that the market has changed," she said. "There are a wide variety of new phones that are already available unlocked, and cellphone carriers have relaxed their unlocking policies."

Angry activists sent a petition with more than 114,000 signatures to the White House asking it to step in. A few months back the administration called Congress to make legislation to override the decision by the Library of Congress. But Congress has been slow to act. The administration's petition to the FCC appears to be a move to keep a spotlight on the issue.

The CTIA, which represents wireless carriers, issued a statement in response. It raised questions about the wisdom of unlocking cellphones without permission. The group said it was concerned the move "can facilitate the sale of stolen smartphones."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

At 81, Disney's First African-American Animator Is Still In The Studio

First hired in the 1950s, Floyd Norman is still drawing. "Creative people don't hang it up," he says. "We don't walk away, we don't want to sit in a lawn chair. ... We want to continue to work. "
NPR

America's Real Mountain Of Cheese Is On Our Plates

To help dairy farmers hurt by a glut, the USDA said this week it'll buy $20 million worth of cheese and give it to food banks. But we eat so much of the stuff, that's hardly a drop in the bucket.
WAMU 88.5

Friday News Roundup - International

Italy searches for survivors after a devastating earthquake. Turkey escalates its role in the fight against ISIS. And Colombia and the FARC rebels sign a peace treaty ending a half-century-long guerrilla war. A panel of journalists joins guest host Derek McGinty for analysis of the week's top international news stories.

NPR

WhatsApp Will Start Sharing Data, Including Phone Numbers, With Facebook

It will also test new ways for businesses to communicate with users on the app. The privacy policy changes mark the long-expected move by Facebook to begin making money from the free app.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.