back to article America's mobile phone unlock block coming unstuck

The USA's curious decision to prohibit unlocking phones is a step closer to reversal, after the Committee on The Judiciary's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet heard evidence about just what a silly, anti-competitive idea the ban represents. The committee's chair, congressman Bob Goodlatte, has …


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  1. Steve Knox

    Yes, because...

    ...makes our streets just a little bit safer by making it harder for large scale phone trafficking syndicates to operate in the open ...

    When I go out after dark, my greatest fear is of being mugged by phone traffickers...

    I'm not sure which would be worse:

    a) if this were just another fevered dream of a misinformed politician, or

    b) if such organizations really do exist and succeed...

    Of course, if these syndicates are selling the unlocked phones in foreign jurisdictions where the prohibition against unlocking doesn't exist, how does this law affect them anyway? Also, if they're breaking the law to obtain the phones in the first place, is this provision really going to stop them in their tracks?

    1. ~mico
      Thumb Up

      Re: Yes, because...

      ...making criminals break yet another law will shurely stop them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes, because...

      " is this provision really going to stop them in their tracks?"

      No, but anybody that can think knows that it''s simply a spurious argument put about by big telecom to continue the block as long as possible, with the intention of stopping people switching carriers. Plan B for big telecom will be to demand an "administration fee" to unlock phones (as some carriers do in Europe).

      If you can force that up to fifty dollars it's a fair amount of cash when the benefit of switching may only be a few dollars a month, like for like. The originating network is then offering a choice of "fifty dollars and you're free to walk, or stay with us on a sim free deal that's almost, but not quite competitive". That's simple value maximisation by the big companies, and if that stuffs consumers, what do the politicians care? Backhanders and free lunches don't come from ordinary voters.

      There is a simple solution, of buying an unlocked handset and going SIM free. Even in the UK where we don't have a ban on unlocking phones, that's looking like a better and better option.

      1. John Riddoch

        Re: Yes, because...

        Well, I'm now on a relatively cheap plan on Vodafone of about £17 a month which is essentially SIM-only now. I worked out that getting a new phone "free" would be more expensive over the 2 years than it would be to buy the phone off the net on a SIM-only deal. As it is, I was rather underwhelmed by the phones on offer at the time and I've kept the old phone going a while longer than I might have otherwise done. It's liberating getting off the treadmill of automatically upgrading every 2 years.

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  3. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Locked or unlocked

    Locking allows for phone subsidy, if you want a cheap handset then get a locked one, if you want an unlocked one you can buy them at a greater cost and use a cheaper SIM only contract, whichever suits you best.

    1. My Alter Ego

      Re: Locked or unlocked

      I do the latter. However I don't see the point in locking the phone - you're still going to have to pay monthly (for up to 24 months) as per your contract, so the provider is guaranteed to get their pound of flesh.

      Sure, you can say that by providing an unlocked phone (that the customer uses on a different network) means that the customer won't pay as much to the provider. However, the costs to the phone's provider will be less as there will be no data/SMS/phone usage.

  4. Rob Crawford

    Only locked in the US?

    So do they not thing that shipping the phone overseas and then unlocking it doesn't circumvent their DCMA legislation?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Only locked in the US?

      NO, they don't think that. They think that US law applies worldwide.

  5. Soruk


    In what warped way does a phone lock constitute a COPYRIGHT issue?!

    Beer, because I could use one after trying to figure this out.

    1. Steve Knox

      Re: Confused...


      1. "Locking" a phone to a given provider is a software feature.

      2. Software is often copyrighted.

      3. The large US telecomms companies have quite a bit of money to throw at lawyers, lobbyists, etc.

      Ergo, phone unlocking is a DMCA violation.

  6. Tom 35

    To protect their business model

    In the US (and Canada) they sell pay as you go phones below cost, then charge a ridiculous amount for minutes that expire after 30 days. They expect to make back the loss on the phone many times over on the minutes. The phones target poor people with no credit that can't get a normal cell phone.

    But people would go into Walmart and buy 10 phones, unlock them and resell them. This was not illegal until they made unlocking illegal.

    Almost forgot to say that the people buying the phones are drug dealers and terrorists...

  7. Roger Stenning

    I must have missed something...

    ..."Michael Altschul, general counsel at The Wireless Association opined (PDF) “The bill is a reasonable balance that protects consumers and carriers alike, while preserving elements of the Librarian’s decision that keep our streets safe”."

    What the heck has a mon... oops. Sorry. *glances worriedly around* - an ape - howsoever literate or law-enforcement-minded - have to do with this?!

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