Just a couple of weeks after a White House petition asking that the unlocking cellphones be legalized earned over 100,000 signatures, the Obama administration has shared its stance on the matter. R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, and Privacy, wrote today that the White House agrees that consumers should be able to unlock their phones without penalty and that consumers should be able to use their device on another network so long as it isn't bound by a service agreement. Edelmen also said that tablets should be unlockable as they include cellular functionality and continue to become increasingly similar to phones.

So what does the White House plan to do? The official response explains that the Obama administration would support several different methods of addressing the situation. That includes "narrow legislative fixes" that clearly state that a consumer should be able to switch carriers whenever he or she chooses, so long as that person isn't involved in a service agreement. The White House also points out that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski formally shared his concerns (PDF link) about the DMCA exemption on unlocking after first touching on the issue last week. The FCC and the NTIA will be working together on this matter. Finally, the White House suggests that phone providers examine the ways in which their users can take advantage of the features of their devices.

All of this hubbub stems from a decision by the Librarian of Congress to remove an exemption from the DMCA that allowed consumers to unlock their own phones, making the process technically illegal unless the user gained permission to unlock from their carrier. The fact that this petition received overwhelming support from the White House is sure to please its backers, and it's good to hear that the Obama administration supports the unlocking of tablets as well. Of course, it's worth noting that no policies have changed quite yet, so it's still not quite legal to unlock your mobile device without operator consent. Here's to hoping that the White House's strong support and the FCC and NTIA are investigating the matter, we'll see a resolution reached soon.

Via Petitions.WhiteHouse.Gov, FCC (PDF)

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16 Reactions to this post

"Do you think that the ban on cellphone unlocking will be rescinded?"

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Karl Funk locked ....is like buying a tv,and its "locked" to only b e able to recieve cable from direct tv.....and dish,comcast,ect...wont work= fail
Will Rose I think once you buy a product it is yours to do what you want with. I think if you want to unlock your cell phone or tablet you should be allowed to because nobody has the right to tell you what you can do with something you paid for. It's like my theory on capped internet, that should be done away with to and all internet should be unlimited. I do not see how they can tell you this is all the data we will allow you to have even though you are paying the bill. you have cell phones to thank for that...they started the capping of the internet and now it is in your home . I guess next cable and satellite providers will be telling you how many hours of tv they will allow you to see in a month...but i bet the rates keep climbing!!!
Ryan Anton Should it? Absolutely. Will it? Probably not.
Kenneth Maneeley It has good to be unlocked if you can afford the phone outright. Good to be locked it you can't afford it. On the fence.
Geraldy Reyes A supporting problem is a carrier pricing even for an unsubsidized device, if u don't have a contract then a plan should b cheaper since you are not paying into the device.
James Vincent @Lowell Orland Richmond people under contract get locked phones because they are subsidized by the carrier that $600 device is in their hands for significantly less out the door but they are locked into a contract for 2 years... it is cheaper in the long run to buy an unlocked phone outright and get a prepaid sim but unless you already have an at&t compatible sim you're going to be on t-mobile's network which can be a limiting factor for some (like myself... t-mobile has horrible coverage in some of the places i go)
Nick Petrizzio If you want to drop the contract, they can make their loss up with the ETF anyway
Nick Petrizzio You should be able to unlock the phone when you want to
John Smith If you buy the phone outright or are out of contract you should be able to unlock YOUR phone. If you are still under a contract the phone is still the carriers, therefore they can tell you not to unlock it.
Carl Dale Mmmmm
Lowell Orlando Richmond i don't understand why people so dumb to get locked phones in the first place,cause when you buy a phone ...IT'S YOURS and YOURS TO KEEP not the carriers this is why i buy unlocked phones only cause the updates are not held back by carriers,no BS bloatware and.....no BS ugly branding
Robert Wellington Clubine III I think is should be but consumer rights is very weak in the states.
Mark Belkowski it should be. if i spend $600+ on a device i better be able to do whatever the hell i want to it.
Jacob Grumbles Especially for people like me who pay full price for phones because we cant wait for our upgrades .
Jacob Grumbles It should

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