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California lawmaker to present bill revoking cellphone unlocking ban

March 06, 2013|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • A shopper views mobile phones at a Best Buy store in San Francisco. Unlocking cellphones makes it possible for consumers to use their device with a carrier other than the one from which they purchased the phone.
A shopper views mobile phones at a Best Buy store in San Francisco. Unlocking… (David Paul Morris / Bloomberg )

California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) said Wednesday that she plans to introduce a bill that would lift the ban on consumers unlocking their cellphones.

"The ban on unlocking cellphones puts consumers in the back seat when it comes to choosing the mobile device and service that best suits them," Eshoo said in a statement. "Competition and consumer choice are equally fundamental to a vibrant mobile marketplace."

Eshoo's comments come just two days after the White House said it would support legislation to make cellphone unlocking legal. The White House's comments came in response to a petition that calls for deleting the ban.

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Unlocking cellphones makes it possible for consumers to use their device with a carrier other than the one from which they purchased the phone. This is useful for people who take their phone abroad or plan to sell it.

Consumers who purchased a phone after Jan. 26 are not able to unlock their device legally without the consent of the carrier who sold it to them. That's because last year the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress chose not to extend an exemption to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act that had made cellphone unlocking legal. The legislative agency said users had numerous alternatives to unlocking their cellphones, including buying devices that already were unlocked. 

According to iFixit, people who unlock their cellphones without receiving permission from their carrier can face fines of up to $500,000 and five years in jail.

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