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White House says it supports reversing US ban on unlocking cellphones

AP Photo / Charles Dharapak
Another way to unlock your phone is to drop it.
  • Zachary M. Seward
By Zachary M. Seward

Editor-in-chief of Quartz

United StatesPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The White House just announced that it supports legislation to reverse a ban on unlocking cellphones that went into effect this year.

“Consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,” R. David Edelman, the White House’s senior adviser for internet policy, wrote in response to a petition that garnered more than 114,000 signatures. “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.”

Wireless carriers in the US typically sell “locked” cellphones, which means they can only be used with wireless plans provided by those carriers. Unlocking the phone, usually with software, can be a convenient way to save money after a wireless contract expires or when traveling outside the US with international SIM cards. But last year, the US Register of Copyrights ruled (PDF) that unlocking cellphones should be illegal.

The new rule went into effect in January, prompting a wave of protest. Today, in addition to the White House comment, the Federal Communications Commission said it also opposed the unlocking ban (PDF) and would look into whether to take action.

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