Those advocating for the freedom to unlock their carrier provided devices might soon be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, H.R. 1123 has just passed voting in the House, but last minute changes almost caused it to fail.
Thanks to some changes made in October 2012 in the rather controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, more lovingly known as the DMCA, 2013 started by making it illegal for phones to be unlocked for use with carriers other than the one it was purchased from. Naturally, this did not sit well with consumers as well as the new FCC chair, causing back and forth negotiations with carriers who, naturally, would prefer to keep their customers within their walled gardens.
This new bill will practically reinstate something that consumers felt they had a right to in the first place but was practically taken away by the DCMA changes. However, the bill will only legally allow unlocking of devices after the service contract expires, which usually lasts two years on most offerings. It is still illegal to unlock the device during that period, but afterwards, it’s fair game for anyone.
Unfortunately, a last minute change in the bill cause some previous proponents in the House to reluctantly change sides. The change, introduced by the GOP, bans bulk unlocking. Those who reversed their votes felt that the changes were antagonistic to consumers, since it made it difficult for some people to start a phone unlocking business. Despite the slight change in tides, the numbers were still in favor of passing the bill.