Bill allowing Americans to unlock smartphones passes, heads to Obama


#1

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#2

Whew! I’m glad that Congress showed such a spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship on this extremely important issue effecting Americans today.

Sarcasm aside, it’s great that I can unlock my phone and choose my service by carrier and not handset, but there are a few more pressing issues to resolve. If only women’s rights, war, racism, and every other issue we face these days could be so easily dealt with.


#3

I wonder how many people will actually be affected by this and use this provision. I mean, you’ll still have to wait until your phone is paid off and goes off-contract before you can switch and unlock (the exception, I suppose, being cheap, subsidized no-contract phones), whereas the average smartphone seems to be replaced after about 22 months (though the data is admittedly a few years old). I believe most carriers will already unlock a device for you after 6 months of paid service (usually so you can pick up a foreign SIM when you travel, since you’re still on contract).


#4

I remember the last time Congress passed a bill… I think it was 2008?


#5

Now if only we could be similarly empowered to unlock bootloaders.


#6

Yall are going to hate me but . . first world problems?

Also, Leahy is a corporatist asshat.


#7

295 to 114 is “unanimous” now?


#8

I was wondering about that, too. The hyperlink is a quote from Leahy’s webpage (to which it leads), and maybe, there, he was just beaming with pride about a similar bill having apparently recently passed the senate unanimously (or, at least, in some fashion whereby votes need not be counted, according to govtrack.us: “It was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.”).


#9

Yes, but there’s probably some amendment by Feinstein that also lets the NSA unlock your phone…

Also, it’s not just a “first world problem”, it’s a specifically American problem, because of the way carriers subsidize phones and lock them in return.


#11

Well, considering that it’s a story about America and Americans…duh.

Do you have a point?

As an American, I’m happy about this. My phone is slouching toward two years since I signed the contract, and the phone was a Galaxy Nexus, which could be trivially unlocked. I’m on the lookout for an Android that’s close to stock, and doesn’t have one of those super-de-duper physical fuses that tattle on you when you try to unlock the bootloader. Any suggestions?


#12

This is really about reforming copyright laws so they serve content creation instead of monopoly creation. Cell phones are involved only because the special interests got too greedy and got the library of congress to abuse their power and make cell phone unlocking no longer a dmca approved exception.


#13

It’s one of those ‘first world problems’ that the rest of the first world resolved ages ago, or never had in the first place. I imagine to someone living in Europe, this headline might as well read “Bill allowing Americans to beathe air passes.”


#14

Any details? For instance, does the user have to unlock, or can a 3rd party do it? Is the original carrier required to provide unlock codes, or do I actually have to figure out how to bypass the lock? Can I do this at any time, or only after my contract is up? Is this going to actually help anyone, or is it just a pointless gesture? I don’t hear any cell phone carriers bitching, so I assume this is just charades.


#15

In other words, we are being granted permission to do something we used to be able to do, and then you took it away, and now we get it back. Thanks, Obama!


#16

Well, the people who it will most help are people who want to get away from a Big 5 mobile network plan, but like a certain device. These are the Big 5:

• Verizon Wireless
• AT&T Mobility
• Sprint Corporation
• T-Mobile US
• US Cellular

They own basically everything, and what this law does is allow a person to move not only between them, but also between any of the many “mobile virtual network operators”(MVNO) with their preferred device. MVNOs don’t own the lines they use. They lease them from the bigger companies, but they may offer competitive rates, prepay plans, and stripped-down plans where you don’t pay for services you don’t use. So an MVNO may offer a better plan for you than what you can find on the exact same network from the Big 5 company.

Here’s one risk in contracting with a MVNO. If they’re successful, they may end up selling out to the people who own their lines. Cricket Wireless, whose network is owned by AT&T, used to be an independent company. Now they’re a subsidiary of AT&T, and their customers are now AT&T customers - some may not even realize it. Sprint owns both Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA. So your choice of company isn’t as wide as it seems - this law only really opens up plan to device matching access.


#17

On the other hand, we don’t have a national opt-out porn filter, so we’ve got that going for us.


#18

Well, the theory is that a limited monopoly encourages creators.

But copyright laws don’t seem to have had much of an impact on the development of Android. And it’s not like the US is the only country with copyright laws, or that copyright laws are preventing US competitors from doing what the rest of the world does (i.e., charging full price on handsets and not locking them): Google tried with Nexus and failed to make much headway.

You can unlock it once your device is paid off, which typically means the end of your contract (or upon payment of your ETF). It’s not a huge deal, though, since pretty much all Verizon phones are sold unlocked, and you can pop an AT&T SIM into your new Verizon iPhone 5S and have it work. You’re still responsible for your Verizon contract, however…


#19

We just have the “sure, go ahead watch all the porn you want, but we’re watching you watch, and it’s going in your file…” but I guess most of world has that (if not from us, then from their own gov’ts…)


#20

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