Numerous lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said on Tuesday that they want to pass legislation to legalize cellphone unlocking, notes The Hill. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was the first to introduce a bill on the topic, formally offering the Wireless Device Independence Act.
Unlocking a cellphone allows the owner to switch the device to another company’s network. The Librarian of Congress ruled last year that customers must obtain their carrier’s permission to unlock their phones, even if their contract has expired.
T-Mobile’s new contract-free unlimited data plan enables customers with an unlocked phone to have access to a $70 plan with no contract that includes unlimited voice calling, messaging and data with no caps or overages. AT&T and T-Mobile use similar technology. By forbidding unlocking, AT&T can prevent owners of phones from using them on competing carriers.
The actions come one day after the White House endorsed cellphone unlocking and said it would support “narrow legislative fixes” to legalize the practice. The White House made its statement in response to an online petition that gathered more than 114,000 signatures.
The Judiciary Committee, which handles copyright issues, would likely have jurisdiction over any bill to legalize cellphone unlocking.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, said she plans to introduce her own bill this week.
“Consumers should be free to choose the phone and service that best fits their needs and their budgets,” Klobuchar said.
Sascha Segan explains how Obama’s support could hurt phone unlocking because many Republicans automatically oppose anything the President likes.