This afternoon, the Senate passed a bill that will allow consumers to switch carriers and keep their same phone once their contract is up. The bill was passed unanimously.
Senator Patrick Leahy introduced S. 517, the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” which adds an exemption back in to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) that will let customer unlock their phones once they’re paid up. When it was first introduced last year, Leahy stated “This straightforward restoring bill is about promoting consumer rights. When consumers finish the terms of their contract, they should be able to keep their phones and make their own decision about which wireless provider to use.”
The bill, having been passed unanimously by the Senate, must now head to the House for further action.
To me, it’s one of those instances when common sense prevails. The thought there it could be possible for a carrier to refuse you the option to unlock a phone once your contract (or installment plan) is up is ludicrous, given that you’ve paid for the device, and therefore should own the right to do whatever you want with it. The difficulty arose when the Library of Congress decided that phone software could be protected by copyright laws, and unlocking the phone breaches that copyright.
This bill allows consumers to unlock phones without tampering with the copyrighted software installed on the phone.