Phone-Unlocking Bill Moves to the Senate

Posted by at 11:11 am on July 10, 2014

The full Senate will vote on a bill that aims to reestablish the legality of unlocking cell phones.

The bipartisan proposal was agreed to in broad terms last month. Today the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to advance the bill to the Senate. Senator Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley introduced the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act last year in order to restore consumers’ ability to unlock their phones. Unlocking phones became illegal when the Library of Congress allowed an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to expire.

The bill still falls under the purview of the DMCA and leaves the ultimate decision up to the Library of Congress. If enacted immediately, it will be legal to unlock cell phones only for a period of 14 months before the policy must be reviewed once again by the Library of Congress. The wording of the bill mandates the policy be reviewed once every three years.

Separately, the NTIA and the FCC have mandated that wireless network operators make it easier for consumers to unlock their devices. Most of the largest carriers have already begun putting policies in place that allow customers to unlock their devices once terms of their agreement are met.

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