Once Again Officially Legal to Unlock Your iPhone

On Friday President Barack Obama signed a bill into law making it legal for consumers to unlock their iPhone. This enables you to move to another service provider without having to pay for a new phone.

This bill is called the Unlocking Consumer Choice & Wireless Competition Act, and it orders the United States Library of Congress to permit iPhone or other cell phones owners to unlock their terminals – normally ‘locked’ to a service provider such as Verizon or AT&T – to use on other networks without having to ask permission from the service provider.

“As long as their phone is compatible and they have complied with their contracts, consumers will now be able to enjoy the freedom of taking their mobile service – and a phone they already own – to the carrier that best fits their needs,” White House statement.

The Difference Between Unlocking and Jailbreaking

Unlocking means that your device is only able to access the network of a specific telecom, such as Verizon or AT&T.

When purchasing an iPhone or iPad, the total cost is normally subsidized by taking out a 24 month contract with the network carrier. The iOS operating system within the iPhone locks or encrypts Apple devices ensuring that they can’t be used on any other network.

Jailbreaking, however, is the method used to remove limitations on an iOS device. Jailbreaking means gaining root access to the IOS file system and manager, permitting the user to install hacks, tweaks, and mods that don’t ever make it to the Apple store.

Rooting Android is pretty-much the same as jailbreaking iOS.

Praise From The President

Following the approval of legislation by Congress to make this action legal (again), President Obama praised the move and said he looks forwarding to signing it.

“The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget,” the president said last week, when the bill cleared Congress. “I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.”

LoC (Librarian of Congress) Made Unlocking Illegal

Last year the LoC made unlocking illegal under an amendment to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The new bill has totally gone against last year’s decision made by the LoC which stated that it was illegal to unlock a device, but legal for customers to jailbreak an iPhone, regardless of whether it’s a tablet or a smartphone. This provides service providers with legal authority to lock a consumer’s phone, with the cell phone user facing huge costs in trying to link to other carriers while traveling or overseas, or in switching carriers.

More Choice For Consumers

Consumer groups and politicians believe the new bill will promote consumer choice in the wireless market, because it now freely permits users to switch their mobile phones to a different carrier.

Laura Moy is an attorney at the advocacy group Public Knowledge, and she believes this bill will ensure that consumers are able to do whatever they want with a phone they have purchased, like using it on whatever network they choose. She also believes that this bill will prevent millions of devices being used as landfill.

Carriers Will (Eventually) Provide Unlocking Codes

The law now makes unlocking legal, however it doesn’t make wireless carriers provide their customers with the unlock codes without having a very good reason. It seems that those consumers who are still under a contract with their service provide will first have to satisfy the terms of their contract before being able to unlock their iPhone.

“[This] effort began with a digital petition on the White House’s We the People site, an online platform where citizens can offer ideas for the Administration to take action on important issues facing our country,” Senator Patrick Leahy and President Obama’s economic adviser Jeff Zients wrote on the White House blog.
“The petition drew an extraordinary response, with more than 114,000 citizens making their voices heard. And within two weeks, the White House answered with a call to action, laying out steps the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), industry, and Congress could take to ensure copyright law would not undermine wireless competition.” he added.