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US Set to Pass Phone Unlocking Bill
Source: totaltele.com
Source Date: Monday, July 28, 2014
Focus: Citizen Engagement
Country: United States
Created: Aug 05, 2014

CTIA gives muted response to new legislation; Competitive Carriers Association applauds move.

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted unanimously in favour of a new law that will make it easier for consumers to unlock their phones and connect to other mobile networks.

Crafted by congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Patrick Leahy, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was approved by the Senate on 15 July, and will now pass to the White House where it will be signed into law.

"The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget," said President Barack Obama, in a statement late last week.

In 2012 the Copyright Office declared that unlocking phones violated software copyrights protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As a result, customers were not permitted to unlock their device without their operator's permission. The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was introduced after a petition opposing the Copyright Office's decision garnered more than 114,000 signatures.

"This law will protect consumer choice by allowing flexibility when it comes to choosing a wireless carrier. This is something that Americans have been asking for and I am pleased that we were able to work together to ensure the swift passage of legislation," said Goodlatte, in a statement.

"The bipartisan Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act puts consumers first, promotes competition in the wireless phone marketplace, and encourages continued use of existing devices," added Leahy.

The new law's approval elicited a more muted response from CTIA, which represents the interests of the U.S.'s big four telcos.

Friday's "action by the House moves us closer to alleviating any confusion stemming from the Copyright Office's 2012 decision," said Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs at CTIA, in a statement.

"It is important to note that CTIA's members already committed to a set of voluntary principles that enable consumers interested in unlocking their devices to do so. Nonetheless, we greatly appreciate the care that chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte took in crafting their legislation and avoiding the imposition of any new regulatory obligations on wireless providers," he said.

While the big four do offer to unlock devices, it is worth noting that each one has its own set of seemingly piecemeal rules that limit the practice to particular circumstances.
The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), which lobbies for smaller players, was much more upbeat than CTIA.

"All consumers, no matter where they live, work or travel, should have the ability to take the device of their choosing to the carrier that best meets their needs and desires," said CCA chief executive Steven Berry, in a statement. "I thank Congress for working on this important consumer issue and taking this last step to send a bill to the president's desk."

(By Nick Wood)
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