updated 03:18 pm EST, Mon March 4, 2013
President and officials consulted on issue last week, plan to allow unlocking
The White House has issued a response to the successful We The People petition. A statement issued earlier today confirmed that the petition response brought together experts from the entire governmental spectrum who "work on telecommunications, technology, and copyright policy," and the White house agrees with the expert and petitioners that consumers should be able to unlock cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties, calling it "common sense" and "crucial for protecting consumer choice."
White House spokesman and senior advisor for Internet, innovation, and privacy R. David Edelman also says that "we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. 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."
Edelman declared that the Obama administration would support a wide range of fixes for the problem, including laws mandating fixes to telecommunication legislation making it clear. Buttressing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman's previous remarks, Edelman said that the agency has an important role to play in the reform.
FCC Chairman Julian Genachowski amplified his remarks from last week earlier today, encouraging Congress to examine the situation, saying that the restriction on unlocking "raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn't pass the common sense test." The FCC is now looking into the issue, evaluating what actions the agency should take to preserve consumers' ability to unlock phones.
The ban, a recent ruling from the Copyright office, forces customers to either ask and likely pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand. Unlocking without carrier permission now carries a potential penalty of up to five years in jail and a $500,000 fine.
The 100,000-signature goal on We The People requesting a White House response was met in the end of January with two days left to run, thus requiring the Obama administration to address the issue. The response from the White House was met with widespread approval from the Internet and consumer advocacy communities.