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White House Favors Making Phone Unlocking Legal
White House Favors Making Phone Unlocking Legal

By Jennifer LeClaire
March 5, 2013 9:51AM

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President Obama would support a range of approaches to addressing unlocking, said senior White House adviser R. David Edelman, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching phone carriers when they are no longer bound by contract.
 



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Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis, said that philosophically, the Obama Administration is absolutely right: cell phones should not be locked.

"Locking cell phones runs counter to the way society works and expects its providers to behave," Shimmin told us. "It's ridiculous for subscribers not to have any form of ownership over the device they are paying for.

"The caveat, of course, is that they aren't paying for it in its entirety. They are highly subsidized. Because of that, carriers believe it's beneficial to provide some controls over that device to make sure customers stay with their contracts and make sure they are able to provide the level of support that they feel they can only with a locked-down device."

Over the long haul, Shimmin said, locking cell phones is harmful to all concerned. The savvier users become, the less inclined they are to adhere to locks. When a smartphone is introduced it doesn't take long for software to roll out to unlock it. Locked cell phones, Shimmin said, also harm innovation. As he sees it, it's unacceptable to wait six months to get an updated operating system.

"I do hope that there is some movement on this in the carrier marketplace to open up phones, and if that leads to carriers offering fewer subsidized plans, so be it," Shimmin said. "There are subscribers who really don't pay that much attention to their device and simply want it to work, and therefore a heavily subsidized plan that locks down the phone is not a big deal for them. But the class of users who want to have the shiniest newest toys and want to modify those toys to make them the best they can be should be able to to pay a premium for that."

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