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US government makes cell phone unlocking legal again

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Last Updated: Aug 4, 2014

The Obama administration has reverted a decision made last year to make unlocking cell phones illegal. After mass anger at the decision, the United States government has listened and reverted the decision, one of the rare democratic moves.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was passed in 2013 by Congress, but after a few weeks an appeal on ‘We The People’ had 120,000 signatures, alongside mass movement by people who wanted to see this change reverted. 

After 100,000 signatures, The White House must give a statement. The website has been used for some comedic uses, like asking to have a Death Star built, but some rising issues like Comcast and Time Warner Cable continue to gain signatures.

Unlocking cell phones allows users to switch their phone carrier after a contract expires, allowing them the freedom to sell the smartphone unlocked. Having an unlocked option allows second hand buyers to purchase the device and add their own SIM.

Bulk unlocking is still “illegal” although the measures in place to stop this type of activity are minimal. When the bill was first introduced, some dealers decided to pack up shop, but others appear to have continued business without getting sent to court.

The wireless phone industry has been hit for once, potentially stopping the over-widening reach of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and other companies, holding consumers for more than two years and making sure they cannot sell off their smartphone unlocked.

Still, the wireless industry in the United States has a lot of power over the mobile market. Phone manufacturers have to go through the four main providers to get traction in the US, the only exception being Apple who can tilt the wireless companies.

Next step for the US government? Set up some legislation to remove bloatware from devices – similar to the South Korean government.

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