Bloomberg reports that the bill introduced by Senators last week to make cell phone unlocking legal again may get support from small regional carriers.
These carriers hope that by allowing users to unlock their cell phones without carrier permission, will allow them to attract customers after they finish their contract with larger carriers like AT&T, Sprint etc.
“Smaller carriers have a very difficult time getting access to smartphones and handsets,” said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents such companies as U.S. Cellular Corp. (USM) and Bluegrass Cellular. “The unlocking is one way the consumer can make the decision that I can try someone else who has better coverage in the area where I live or play.”
The Washington-based trade group is seeking to undo a Library of Congress decision, backed by largest U.S. mobile providers Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (T), barring consumers from unlocking their handsets without their carrier’s approval. The rules change, which took effect Jan. 26, reversed an earlier exemption under copyright law.
The bill introduced last week aims to overturn the Library of Congress’s decision that made unlocking cell phones illegal and also direct the agency to add tablets to devices that customers can unlock.
AT&T has defended its unlocking policy and has said that the recent ban on cellphone unlocking ”will not negatively impact any of AT&T’s customers.” But Sina Khanifar, lead activist behind the petition that got an official response from the White House, commented on AT&T’s statement, saying that the carrier’s policy doesn’t go far enough.
I think what users are looking for, especially international travellers is a way to unlock their devices even before they finish their contracts so they use a local carrier SIM to avoid exorbitant international roaming charges. Based on what I have read, the bill introduced last week doesn’t seem to address those concerns. But it will at least help in ensuring that carriers have a uniform policy when it comes to unlocking and give customers the freedom to unlock their devices without having to depend on their carriers.