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Obama adviser asks FCC to allow consumers to unlock smartphones

By Todd Shields

Bloomberg News

LAST UPDATED: 09:52 p.m. HST, Sep 17, 2013

An adviser to President Barack Obama asked the Federal Communications Commission to require wireless providers to unlock smartphones and tablets on request so they can be used with other carriers' networks.

"Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle," Lawrence E. Strickling, administrator of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, said in a statement today.

Such a move would supersede a ruling last year by the U.S. Library of Congress eliminating a copyright exemption that let consumers unlock new mobile phones without carrier permission.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, a Washington-based trade group with members including the four largest U.S. providers -- Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp. and T- Mobile US Inc. -- called locking mobile phones an essential part of the wireless industry's business model, Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a notice last year.

Justin Cole, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment on Strickling's request.

Mignon Clyburn, the acting FCC chairwoman, said she supports "policies that enable consumers to lawfully unlock their mobile telephones," according to a version of her remarks prepared for delivery at a trade show in Las Vegas today.

'Transparent Policies'

Tom Wheeler, Obama's nominee for FCC chairman who is being considered by the Senate, in June told lawmakers that once a contract is fulfilled, "we ought to have the right to use that device and to move it across carriers or whatever as we see fit," according to a hearing transcript.

Scott Bergmann, CTIA's vice president of regulatory affairs, in a statement today said carriers have "transparent and competitive unlocking policies."

CTIA and its members support legislation that would allow customers to unlock their devices without violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the trade group said in a July 25 filing with the FCC.

Strickling's agency submitted a petition and said the request grew from a citizens' request to the White House.

Removing a lock on a mobile device wouldn't affect a contract a consumer has with a mobile provider, according to a statement by Strickling's agency, which advises the president on communications policy.

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thepartyfirst wrote:
Some how I smell a rat............the NSA!
on September 17,2013 | 07:05PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Also, make telephone numbers portable within an account. If the Government recognizes that a number should belong to a consumer, then the consumer should be able to what they wish with it. Right now, cel phone companies are able to block transfer of numbers from an line "out of contract" to a line "in contract" (meaning, requiring a buy out to eliminate or free up to receive a number. This is basically holding a consumer hostage. You can't take a long used, well dispersed phone number and apply it to a line in your account that you're still obligated to pay on. You HAVE to either find new service, or re-up for two years in order to keep on using your number. If you have multiple lines with a single carrier, and you began service on the various lines at different times, it means the carrier has you held hostage. It's just unfair. The government should disallow it.
on September 17,2013 | 07:08PM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
We are the only country on the planet that has phones coded and locked to a specific carrier. Every other country sells it's iPhones and other smartphones unlocked and ready to install a SIM card from your carrier of choice.
on September 17,2013 | 07:34PM
localguy wrote:
Exactly. We have let the cellphone companies overcharge us for years. Time to join the rest of the unlocked cellphone world. Sad to see the USA bringing up the rear in this area. Blame beltway bureaucrats kow towing to the phone companies.
on September 17,2013 | 09:43PM
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