White House Formally Responds To Phone Unlocking Petition, Calls For Changes In Law


The White House has just issued a formal response to the 110,000 plus signature supporting a consumer’s right to unlock their phone after the completion of your existing contract. Responding to the petition on whitehouse.gov, the executive branch states:

“The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties.”

That’s not all, the statement goes on to call for similar rights to exist beyond phones into other mobile devices, like tablets:

“And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network,” they said. “It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.”

Ultimately, it’s still up to the Librarian of Congress which holds formal oversight over the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the law which brought all of this to a head at the end of January. Hopefully, pressure from the White House and the FCC can influence those who initiated this ridiculous law and find it in the very depths of their hearts to reverse it.

White House


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  • 21stNow

    Come on White House. Do something to make me happy for a change!

  • asmidnightfalls

    Hopefully the DMCA ruling gets overturned. There is no logical reason to keep a device under an umbrella of a corporation, unless you are bound by it being lost, stolen, or under contract. Anything else is completely ludicrous, and having been in the cell phone business for such a long time, it saddens me that this ruling is in effect. Imagine buying a new car, and the manafucturer is telling you that you only pay for the gas at one pump, one brand, and one area only…..complete idiocy. I’m glad I signed up for the petition when I did.

    • Dion Mac

      Or, you can only use premium. Yeah your car is compatible with unleaded but the big oil companies made our CEOs pocket fat and you can pay for it at the pump. And thanks for being a valued customer by the way!

      • asmidnightfalls

        Don’t know if that was sarcasm or not, but I’m not a customer.Im a front line rep, and this is not the same as premium/unleaded, that is a choice you made as a consumer.This has another layer of choice, thereby negating the choice of the consumer, cars let you choose the equipment brand and interior, whereas phone manufacturer in the us make you choose a carrier, and the caliber of the device, and not letting you modify it or changing the carrier excluding those sold at inflated priced unlocked, or very seldom exceptions like the nexus 4…

        • Dion Mac

          The awkward feeling when somebody was agreeing with you but you just told them off…

        • asmidnightfalls

          Lol…awkward silence*my bad.

      • mdosu

        dude, you don’t know what you’re talking about. you can put 87 into your Ferrari, the car will still work, but that’s not going to be good in the long run.

        • Dion Mac

          I really need to get my anger under control. I was about to snap..but I don’t have the energy. But I’m sorry that my analogy didn’t work for you. I’ll try to do better next time. K?

        • mdosu

          Sounds like a good plan. Try not to denigrate classes of people, and at a minimum you will sound intelligent or at least not a bigot.

        • Dion Mac

          Just great, I just went all the way off and it wont get published b/c of a few choice words use. Don’t even care that much. Moving on… have a great,
          marvelous day!

      • bakgwailo

        Except that some car (read: all vehicles with turbos/forced induction) really do need 93/premium for mechanical reasons so that the engine does not detonate under boost. Also, all gas (regardless of rating) is unleaded – leaded gasoline was made illegal a long time ago for health reasons. Lastly, it is your choice to buy a car that requires premium gas – you can always get a different car (or even model in some cases) that does not. Sorry to pick your analogy apart – I do kind of get what you were trying to do and I agree with the overall message ;)

    • mdosu

      um, not exactly a great anology b/c your car isn’t subsidized by the oil company/gas company.
      The point of the contract lock is b/c At&T subsidized the consumer’s phone. The point of overturning DMCA’s provision is that after the subsidy has been paid back by consumer via the 2-year contract rate (Classic Plan rate for T-Mobile customers), or paid the cancellation fee, then you officially have paid off the equipment cost and thus fully own the phone.

  • charlieboy808

    Makes absolutely no sense that we can all Jailbreak/Root our devices but not move them to another carrier. What does it matter once we are done with the contract on a particular service? If I cancel and I paid for the device is it not mine to do what I want with? Are they going to buy the phone back from us? I’m not going to need it if I can’t use it with my next carrier.

    • you can unlock your device from the carrier; not that you’re restricted to that one carrier only. That’s not what the DMCA law is stating at all. you need the permission of the carrier to unlock your phone. you can not modify or change outside that term. I believe if your in a contract, you can request to unlock your phone within the terms of unlocking your device. T Mobile will unlock the device as soon as the end of 40 days of contract service; or show proof of purchase with a receipt of the full retail price.

      • Edward351

        The DMCA actually doesn’t say anything about phones. The DMCA contains a provision that makes it illegal to by-pass copy-control and access-control measures in a digital device. Unlocking your phone would be bypassing access-control systems in your device and is a violation of the DMCA. The DMCA can have exceptions filed to it on three year terms. For the last six years there has been an exception that allowed people to legally bypass access control(phone locks) and use their devices on other networks. This past year that exception was not renewed, and now it is illegal to take your device to a third party to have it unlocked. If providers decide to unlock devices for you for whatever reason, that is their prerogative. They are not required by law to do so. The change is that it is now illegal to do it on your own, or through a third party.

        • mdosu

          +1. Good clarification on the provision. A lot of misinformed people on here regarding contracts, access controls, and the provision itself

        • philyew

          Thanks for this. I’ve tried to post something similar in the past, but it was swept away in the flood of misplaced, if understandable, indignation.

          The fact is that this restriction has actually been around for 15 years and was only set aside over the last six years because of an effective exemption argument posed to the Librarian of Congress.

          Since the review is conducted “de novo” every three years, the presumption reverts to the restrictive state for each review. This time around, the arguments for the renewed exemption were particularly badly represented.

          On the other side, the CTIA mounted the legal defense of the status quo with three effective arguments that are largely ignored in this discussion:

          1) The main thrust of the law is to prevent what are considered shady businesses from buying phones in the USA and shipping them overseas to be unlocked and used in other markets.

          2) One of the proponents of the renewed exemption was a service provider whose motive was transparently to gain business from competitors to whom there was some residual obligation from the phone subsidy.

          3) All the main carriers offer clear methods for customers in good standing to unlock their devices. The rules for at least TM and AT&T were cited in their evidence.

          The CTIA has separately argued that this has nothing whatsoever to do with jailbreaking (which it also opposes, BTW).

          It is pretty clear to me that, without (3) above, the Librarian would have decided in favor of a renewed exemption.

          The bottom line therefore is that, in the short term, our energies would probably be better spent ensuring that the carriers continue to meet their stated obligation on unlocking and, if there is any deviation, ensure that the appropriate federal authorities are notified.

          The alternative is a direct assault on the DMCA, which has proved pretty resilient to opposition over the last 15 years. While that may be desirable on many levels, it is going to be a much bigger challenge.

  • Nick Thai

    It is my TOY, I should be able to do Sh**t with it as long as it does not HARM any other people. Bring this matter to Supreme Court and It should be decided

  • Nearmsp

    The White House has basically backed AT&T: ““And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network,” they said.”
    The operative word is service agreement. So even if you pay off the full price, but not your 2 years, paying the termination fee will not mean they are obligated to unlock your device. All the reason to buy unlocked device on T-mobile.

    • 21stNow

      Since paying the termination fee terminates the service on AT&T, they will unlock the device once the fee (and all other charges) is paid. This is provided that the device is not an “exclusive” device.

  • loueradun

    They provided a reply which is all the 100,000 signatures warrants. I honestly don’t expect anything to change, and from the wording at the end of the response, I don’t know why anyone would. Basically in conclusion, they need someone to create legislation, or they need the FCC to do their job. Oh and they also want mobile providers to help too… the same mobile providers that lobbied the Library of Congress to drop the exemption in the first place… fat chance of that happening…

    Absolutely love it… they present a semblance of caring, while at the same time not doing anything about the problem.

    • asmidnightfalls

      Would you prefer they not respond, or being tied down to the ruling without any input? Changing a law is not farfetched, but I can understand what you are saying. Here’s to hoping that a response is not all we get and that something occurs from this petition.

      • loueradun

        No, I am definitely pleased to see that they posted a response, but lets not fool ourselves. All the petition demands is that we get a response from the white house, and we now have that. I think that more should have been done such as proposing legislation to address the problem, or perhaps an appeal to the Library of Congress. It sounds like the White House is leaving the ball in our court to try and get something fixed at this point (Unless you think that the FCC or the mobile carriers will be inclined to weigh in our favor).

        • asmidnightfalls

          No, I doubt that the carriers, art and Verizon, would do anything for a consumer, let alone the other two. The FCC may be inclined to do something, but that’s also a stretch. Again, I’m hoping something is done in our favour as opposed to something benefitting big business.

      • loueradun

        Looks like I may be wrong and this may not be the end of the story.
        Now all we can do is hope it isn’t loaded so full of pork that no one will pass it…
        Sorry for my pessimism but I have honestly never seen the government work correctly, and I don’t expect them to start now.

  • GwapoAko

    Yes!!! All cellphones should be unlocked!!!

  • BigMixxx

    Who is the librarian of congress. I’m picturing a little old 500 year old person, like when I was in elementary.

    • zak

      He actually is in his 80s so you’re not far off

  • Durandal_1707

    “The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: **neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers** [emphasis mine] when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.”

    Am I reading this wrong, or are they implying here that phone locks shouldn’t be allowed at all, as in some European countries?

    • Herb

      If you fulfill all the obligations of a contract, or there is no contract, then I believe you are correct. It does allow for locks in contract situations, though.

  • rob

    Well good news for TMO’s BYOD campaign…if all goes well w/ retracting this law.

  • I hope they banned the blacklisting that T-Mobile and AT&T started doing a few months back.

    • NYPD

      You must participate in the theft and resale of stolen mobiles… You do luck criminal

  • ceegii63

    how many GOATs do i have to kill to get that UNLOCK after PAYING FULL PRICE

  • tomarone

    Your other news was T-Mobile was going No-Contract. So do they assume phones will be locked even in No-Contract situations? Is there a conflict between T-Mobile’s position and the No-Locked phone position of the White House, after Contracts?