On Friday, President Barack Obama signed the mobile phone unlocking bill into law with the condition that the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would be further reviewed in 2015. The new law allows mobile phone users to switch carriers by unlocking the software that carriers integrate into devices.
The ability of mobile phone users to switch carriers while continuing to use the same phone was impeded in 2012 when the Library of Congress held updating the software to unlock the mobile phones was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The new law signed by the President removes that obstacle.
H.R. 1123 was introduced in the House last year and passed in February this year. However, the progress of the bill was held up and it took until 28 July to ultimately present the bill to the President. It passed the Senate on July 16.
Commenting that the law was the result of bipartisan effort, a post on the White House Blog observed: “The most important part of this joint effort is that it will have a real impact. As long as their phone is compatible and they have complied with their contracts, consumers will now be able to enjoy the freedom of taking their mobile service — and a phone they already own — to the carrier that best fits their needs.”
The White House Blog also noted that this is “the first time a We the People petition has led to a legislative fix.” The movement started with a digital rights activist, Sina Khanifar, submitting a petition on the We the People site to restore the exception for upgrading software in cell phones that had been taken away by the Library of Congress. She held that consumers should have the ability to choose the carrier of their choice by unlocking their mobile phones.