COMMISSIONER JESSICA ROSENWORCELRe:
Cellphone Unlocking Presentation (December 12, 2013)
We are a nation with more wireless phones than people. Many of us count on our mobile phones
to do so much more than communicate through voice calls. We download our whole lives into
our hand-held digital devices. No wonder they are always in our pockets, in our purses, and on
So earlier this year many of us were taken aback when a longstanding interpretation of the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act was changed. The Librarian of Congress determined that
going forward, it would be unlawful for consumers to unlock their mobile phones and take them
with them when they want to switch wireless providers. That means that simply taking your
wireless phone to another network could subject you to criminal penalties—or even jail.
There is a lot that can be said about this decision. But for starters, I think that is one powerful
librarian. I also think this new approach does not make sense. Because if you have a mobile
device, want to unlock it, and you are not bound by a service contract—you should be able to use
it on another network. That makes our markets for wireless service more competitive—and that
So today we announce that working with wireless providers, we have forged an agreement that
will provide consumers with clear notice of their right to request unlocking of their prepaid and
postpaid devices and timely compliance by the provider. I am especially pleased that the
agreement gives deployed service members the ability to stay in touch with their loved ones back
home. It is also the perfect complement to Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which allows
service members to suspend or cancel long-term their wireless contracts without penalty or extra
fees when deployed for 90 days or longer. This is an agreement I support, and I thank the
Chairman for bringing it to our attention and making it part of our meeting today.
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