Senate Passes Bill to Legalize Cell-Phone Unlocking

The two chambers will now need to agree on one bill.

A Blackberry cell phone is seen at Fixx wireless on November 4, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Brendan Sasso
July 16, 2014, 6:28 a.m.

The Sen­ate un­an­im­ously ap­proved le­gis­la­tion late Tues­day to leg­al­ize cell-phone un­lock­ing, which would make it easi­er for con­sumers to switch pro­viders without buy­ing a new phone.

The House passed a sim­il­ar bill earli­er this year, but the House ver­sion in­cluded lan­guage to ban people from un­lock­ing phones in large batches. The two cham­bers will now need to agree on a single ver­sion be­fore it heads to the pres­id­ent’s desk.

In a state­ment, Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Patrick Leahy urged the House to quickly pass the Sen­ate bill “so that con­sumers will be able to use their ex­ist­ing cell phones on the wire­less car­ri­er of their choice.”

Most con­tract cell phones come “locked” to one net­work. Be­cause of a de­cision by the U.S. Copy­right Of­fice in 2012, cus­tom­ers must ob­tain their car­ri­er’s per­mis­sion to leg­ally un­lock their phones to switch to a com­pet­it­or—even after they have com­pleted their con­tract.

The de­cision promp­ted an im­me­di­ate pub­lic back­lash, and more than 114,000 people signed a White House pe­ti­tion in protest.

The Un­lock­ing Con­sumer Choice and Wire­less Com­pet­i­tion Act would over­turn the of­fice’s de­cision and would dir­ect the of­fice to con­sider wheth­er to al­low un­lock­ing of oth­er devices, such as tab­lets.

Con­sumer groups such as Pub­lic Know­ledge and the Elec­tron­ic Fron­ti­er Found­a­tion sup­port the Sen­ate bill, al­though they have also pushed for broad­er le­gis­la­tion that would amend the un­der­ly­ing copy­right law.

CTIA, the lob­by­ing group for cell-phone car­ri­ers such as Ve­r­i­zon and AT&T, has backed the bills in both cham­bers. The group ar­gues the is­sue is over­blown but that the le­gis­la­tion would at least “re­lieve con­sumer con­fu­sion.”

Un­der pres­sure from the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion, all the ma­jor car­ri­ers already signed on to a com­mit­ment last year to al­low their cus­tom­ers to un­lock their phones.

What We're Following See More »
MCCONNELL’S BACK AGAINST THE WALL
Heller, Paul Won’t Vote on Motion to Proceed
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
LESS THAN HOUSE BILL
CBO Says 22 Million More Would Be UNinsured
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The Senate bill "would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026, a figure that is only slightly lower than the 23 million more uninsured that the House version would create. Next year, 15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law...The legislation would decrease federal deficits by a total of $321 billion over a decade."

Source:
ARKANSAS BIRTH CERTIFICATE LAW OVERTURNED
SCOTUS Delivers a Victory for Gay Couples
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of same-sex couples who complained that an Arkansas birth certificate law discriminated against them, reversing a state court’s ruling that married lesbian couples must get a court order to have both spouses listed on their children’s birth certificates."

Source:
63-DAY TRIGGER
Revised Senate Bill Would Add Penalty for Going Uninsured
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
SENT LETTER TODAY
58 House Republicans Ask Ginsburg to Recuse on Travel Ban
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The letter reads in part, "There is no doubt that your impartiality can be reasonably questioned; indeed, it would be unreasonable not to question your impartiality. Failure to recuse yourself from any such case would violate the law and undermine the credibility of the Supreme Court of the United States.” Ginsburg said last year, "He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login