recommended reading

Bill to Legalize Cell-Phone Unlocking Advances in the Senate

Ahn Young-joon/AP

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance legislation that would legalize cell-phone unlocking, which would make it easier for consumers to switch providers without buying a new phone.

The House passed similar legislation earlier this year.

"Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee chairman and sponsor of the legislation.

"With today's strong bipartisan vote in the Judiciary Committee, I hope the full Senate can soon take up this important legislation that supports consumer rights."

Most contract cell phones come "locked" to one carrier. Because of a decision by the U.S. Copyright Office in 2012, customers must obtain their carrier's permission to legally unlock their phones to switch to a competitor—even after they have completed their contract.

The decision prompted an immediate public backlash, and more than 114,000 people signed a White House petition in protest.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which is cosponsored by the committee's top Republican, Chuck Grassley, would overturn the office's decision. The bill would also direct the office to consider whether to allow unlocking of other devices, such as tablets.

Consumer groups such as Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation support the bill, although they have also pushed for broader legislation that would amend the underlying copyright law.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate legislation leaves out controversial language to prohibit people from unlocking phones in large batches. The cellular carriers had lobbied for the House language, arguing it was important to thwart "large-scale" theft operations. But the language caused many lawmakers and advocacy groups to pull their support, saying it would create unnecessary barriers to switching carriers.

CTIA, the lobbying group for cell-phone carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, supports the legislation in both chambers.

Under pressure from the Federal Communications Commission, all the major carriers already signed on to a commitment last year to allow their customers to unlock their phones.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.