Today marks another win for consumers in the telecommunications industry. Today, after Congress passed a bipartisan bill earlier in the year, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that allows consumers to legally unlock their cell phones. Prior to today, it was considered illegal for consumers to unlock their phones to use on another network, domestic or abroad, and was punishable by up to five years in prison.
The fact that this was illegal at a time is absolutely absurd, and I'm happy to see that our government is actually capable of getting something done that every American can benefit from. The reason the practice of unlocking phones was once illegal is because of an application from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. Though, under this act, the Library of Congress has the power to review copyright exceptions, and cell phones were granted as exceptions in 2006 and 2010, but in 2012 this exception was rejected. As a result, over 100,000 Americans signed a petition to push President Obama to champion a bill that would legalize unlocking phones. The White House responded to this petition with a statement showing not only President Obama's agreement with the petition, but also taking it one step further, and asserting the White House's support of unlocking capabilities for devices like tablets, too.
Even though unlocking your phone is legal for now, the Library of Congress still has the power to revisit this issue next year and reverse the law. Because of this, efforts are being made currently in congress to make the ruling of this bill permanent; however, these efforts are being criticized for being redundant and pointless. If the Library of Congress decides to not reverse the newly signed law, then chances are it would make unlocking phones legal for good.
There is only one other obstacle that stands in the way of some consumers changing services providers while using the same phone: different types of networks connections. The big American cell phone providers are split between 2 main types of network technologies. AT&T and T-Mobile both use a GSM network, that use SIM cards that can be transferred from phone to phone, while Verizon and Sprint use a CDMA network, that doesn't use any kind of sim card. So even if you had your phone from Verizon unlocked, you wouldn't be able to use it on the AT&T network.
Nevertheless, as a result of the President and Congress' actions today, consumers do have more options in terms of which cell phone providers they can use with their devices. So long as you live out the length of your contract and your phone is paid in full, you will be able to unlock your phone, legally. Check out how to unlock your cell phone for more information.
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