Cell-phone unlocking bill passes House, bulk-unlocking still in the gray
A little over a year after unlocking all new cell-phones in the USA was made illegal, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (H.R. 1123) was approved by the House yesterday. The bill will return the ability of people to unlock their cell phones for use with a new carrier, once their original service contract expires.
Although extending the exemption in the DMCA, which enforced the restriction was supported from both Republicans and Democrats, a last-minute change made by GOP leaders said that the bill won't permit "bulk unlocking" - that is, the formation of businesses dedicated to unlocking phones. Thus, consumer advocate Jared Pollis and other House members opposed it on the ground that there needs to be "a market in unlocked phones", and that many consumers won't be unlocking their phones themselves.
However, rep. Darrell Issa made it clear that it will be possible for companies to "work around the language" and provide unlocking services. According to him, the new bill does not prevent bulk sales of unlocked and locked phones. The bill's sponsor, rep. Bob Goodlatte, added that it's important for Congress to make sure unlocking recent smartphones is made legal again.
After passing House, the bill is set to reach the Senate, which will get a chance to amend it.