Latest Phone Unlocking Bill Feels Pretty Weak
There’s been a major shift in the public perception of the DMCA’s treatment of smartphone carrier unlocking this month, and following a statement by the White House that it supported changing the existing law, we started hearing about legislation aimed at doing just that. It quickly became a hot-button topic with Congress, and we told you about one such proposal, the Wireless Device Independence Act. Now there’s a new one gaining traction, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, but is it really the victory we need?
The nice thing about the Wireless Device Independence Act was that it directly amended the DMCA to exclude carrier locks from the scope of its restrictions, and placed few rules on how you’d be allowed to unlock phones; for instance, while an unlocker needed to be a legitimate owner of the hardware, it made no stipulation that they must first fulfill any contractual obligations with their carrier.
The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, on the other hand, rather than clearly setting new rules concerning carrier unlocking, merely reverses last fall’s DMCA exemption changes by the Librarian of Congress and instructs the Librarian to reconsider the exemption within the following year.
The presumption may be that the exemption would be granted this time around, but this keeps it on the table for periodic review, leaving us with the chance to end up in the same position we find ourselves in now. If it’s clear that this protection is what citizens want, why not make it a permanent part of the law?
Source: Public Knowledge