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Cell Phone Unlocking Gains Ally in Obama

*from, Mar. 5, 2013 (To view original article click here.)

Take Away #1: An online petition demanding that cell phone customers be able to freely unlock their phones from carrier’s shackles, gained an unexpected ally this week: The Obama Administration.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • The petition posted on the White House’s website gained 114,000 signatures in support.
  • On Monday, Obama administration senior advisor David Edelman responded saying, any mobile device that is locked to a wireless provider should be unlockable once a user’s contract is up.
  • “The Obama administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue…,” Edelman wrote.

Take Away #2: This falls contrary to the Library of Congress’ removal of an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyrights Act, this past January.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • The exemption removed from the 14-year-old Digital Millennium Copyrights Act, protected consumers who sought to unlock their cellphones.
  • Doing so now falls under the risk of punishment by up to five years in prison and a fine of $500,000, even if a subsidized smartphone or tablet is no longer under contract with any carrier.
  • No one has yet been convicted of such an act, but the penalties strike many as overly harsh.

Take Away #3: Petition’s author Sina Khanifar, argues for a more radical policy of allowing phones to be unlockable at any point.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Khanifar says any potential financial loss carriers may face from customers unlocking phones, is protected by hefty early termination fees.
  • Typically $350 penalties imposed on customers for breaking their contracts, make up most of the cost of the smartphone subsidies offered by carriers.

Take Away #4: While unlocking cell phones and tablets would seem an obvious consumer right, some argue the ruling has a reasonable defense.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Michael Altschul, general counsel for the wireless lobby group CTIA argues that if unlocking is legal, it will become easier for criminals to activate stolen phones on other networks, opening up a new channel for crime.
  • Julius Genachowski, chairman of he Federal Communications Commission however says, from a communications policy perspective, this raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn’t pass the common sense test.

*To view original article from click here.

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