Cellphone users should be allowed to switch their devices to any mobile
carrier, the White House said on Monday in response to an online
petition against the recent banning of the practice.
More than 100,000
people signed the petition protesting the ban on switching imposed by
the Library of Congress, which took effect in January. At issue is
whether cellphone buyers, who get new devices at a heavily subsidized
price in return for committing to long-term contracts, should be able to
take their gadgets with them when they change carriers.
the telecoms industry argue that cellphones should be "locked" or
prevented from moving freely across networks because of the massive
subsidies that carriers provide, effectively putting the devices in the
hands of more people.
The petition argued that preventing
"unlocking" reduces consumer choice and resale value of phones, which
can cost hundreds of dollars without subsidies from carriers like
AT&T Inc, Verizon Wireless and Sprint.
"The White House agrees
with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to
unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,"
R. David Edelman, a senior advisor for Internet, Innovation, &
Privacy to the Obama administration, wrote in the White House's
"This is particularly important for secondhand or other
mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to
activate on the wireless network that meets your needs - even if it
isn't the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers
deserve that flexibility."
The Library of Congress, which among
other things is responsible for setting rules and deciding on exemptions
related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, said on Monday the
issue would benefit from further debate and that its intention was not
to supplant public policy discussion.
The Library of Congress got
involved late last year during a rulemaking session conducted by the
Register of Copyrights, which advises the organization. Unidentified
participants in the rulemaking process, a technical, legal proceeding
that allows members of the public to request exemptions to the copyright
act, raised the issue then.
The Library of Congress subsequently
decided that cellphones should no longer be exempted from the relevant
section of copyright law, triggering the January ban on "unlocking."
© Thomson Reuters 2013