The people have spoken and, for a
change, Washington is paying attention.
More than a 1,000 people signed an online petition to relax the rules to
allow them to unlock their cell phones and tablets.
"Unlocking" means: de-programing the phone to allow you to use
any carrier. We spoke to a leading advocate of this push from Washington, DC
and asked how could this change phone service?
"It has the potential to dramatically
impact your cost and options. Currently
you buy your cell phone from carrier "A" at a low price but agree to
a two year contact. If you decide to
change carriers; by reprogramming your phone without paying the fine or getting
permission, it's a crime."
The Obama administration took notice and
has come out in favor of allowing you to "unlock" your phone. The next step is for congress to pass a law giving you that option.
This would allow you to shop around
for calling plans, better prices for those "apps" and even cheaper
rates for international calling. I spoke
with one of the leading advocates of this movement who helped to publicize the
petition. He says Washington is waking
up to consumers' demands. Derek Kharma
from Yale Law Visiting Fellow (Information Society Project) says, "We know cell phone providers do not like their
customers to unlock after their contract has expired."
The cell phone industry is not happy
about this. A few of the major carriers
will try to keep the law in place. The
Wireless Association Industry Trade group sent me an email that said in part, The
Librarian of Congress concluded that an exemption was not necessary because the
largest nationwide carriers have liberal publicly available, unlocking policies
and because unlocked phones are freely available in the marketplace - many at
Customers have numerous options. The can choose to purchase devices at full price with no lock or at a substantially discounted price by signing a contract with a carrier.
This new 'unlocking" policy
change will also cover those of you who also own tablets.
No word on when a bill to unlock phones and tablets will come before congress for a hearing. We'll keep you posted.