The US President Barack Obama has signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law. Previously, unlocking your phone was considered as a violation of federal copyright law, although it was rarely enforced.
Cell phone unlocking is particularly beneficial for customers who are frequent travelers and  wish to take their cell phones with them to another carrier to other countries and prefer to use the services of a local network instead of paying a premium for roaming charges.
Though the law makes unlocking legal, it does not direct wireless carriers to provide unlock codes without a valid reason. Sneha Bokil is a tech enthusiast and is currently using Nexus 5X but she still treasures her Nokia N70 (M). Senate Passes Cell Phone Unlocking Bill, What Does It All Mean For You And Your Cell Phone Plan? The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act sounds like a mouthful, perhaps too much to care about, but it’s going to change the way you do business with your cell phone company.
Before this law was amended, you could not switch phone companies and continue to use your cell phone from a different carrier. This means wireless providers can treat you unfairly and do whatever they please, but if you are unhappy and want to switch services, you can’t take your phone with you, unless you want to go to jail. On February 25, 2014, the house passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law.
The whole reason unlocking cell phones became illegal in the first place has to do with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, specifically a part titled “Section 1201.” Instituted in 1998, the DMCA is poorly written and criminalizes seemingly unrelated acts, thus taking away consumer freedoms. According to Tim O’Reilly, “Section 1201 of the DMCA takes away critical rights from owners of consumer electronics. Since the Library of Congress is elected to protect the rights of everyday Americans, and not big corporate interests, they are fast to fight this off.
The CTIA gives another defense for keeping the ‘unlock’ law in place, warning that unlocked cell phones will increase the ease of stealing and selling smartphones. If you want to switch carriers for any reason at all, you can switch without buying a new phone.
Those excited about the law changes can thank Sina Khanifar, the man behind the movement to stop the ban on unlocked cell phones. A clear improvement from before when cell phones were 100% illegal to unlock, there are still 5 key problems with the current unlock act.
Since cell phone carriers seem reluctant to follow along with the new rules, the FCC is being pushed to continually check up on providers and see if they are making it easy for customers to have their phones unlocked.
Some service providers will still not allow you to unlock your device unless your service plan has spanned the entire 2-years and the contract is now expired. While the new act asks the Library of Congress to make an exception and include other mobile devices in its law, as of now it does not.
Anything that increases competition and makes customer retention more difficult is clearly not going to be loved and adored by any brand trying to make money and keep down costs. The House on Friday unanimously passed legislation will make cell phone unlocking legal, just one week after the Senate approved the same measure. Pretty sure there are other things congress can be doing other than passing iphone unlocking laws. The US government has been working on a bill to essentially allow consumers to completely own their smartphones. The first requirement that the CTIA asked for, was that the device needs to be fully paid off. It’s important to understand that for those of you who know the ins and outs of smart phones, there is another form of unlocking-bootloader unlock. Carriers are beginning to not only sell smartphones, but tablets, smart watches, netbooks and more.
Since the end of January it's been technically illegal to unlock the SIM card slot of your phone in the United States.

For those unfamiliar, service providers like AT&T and Verizon typically lock their devices so they can only be used with their service.
As a Canadian, I can get my iPhone unlocked within 90 days (for a price!) if subsidized, or immediately (for a price!) if unsubsidized.
I've gotten all my previous iOS devices unlocked direct from the carrier for free with no hassles (AT&T). Consumers who are still under a previously-signed service contract with their wireless provider will still need to satisfy the terms of that contract before being allowed to unlock their device. This new law allows users to ‘unlock’ their phones and take them over to any service carrier they want. In order to use your phone through a different service provider you must have the phone unlocked. People that needed to unlock a phone for financial or travel reasons risked up to 5 years jail time doing so. Even if your phone was fully paid for and your contract was canceled or no longer in effect, the phone was not to be unlocked and used through any other service. In 2009, Texas Instruments threatened to sue 3 different bloggers after they each wrote about ways you can “reverse-engineer” aTI-83 Plus calculator so that it runs a completely different operating system. One member of the Library of Congress spoke out about their decision to leave the law alone, Gayle Osterberg, said that her team of congress kept the cell law the same because they believed cell phone providers could be trusted to take care of when and when not to unlock their phones. Even though the law has now passed, he remains busy making sure that Congress renews the exemptions for tablets and other devices. If on a whim you decide to travel abroad and unlock your own device, it is still considered a felony punishable with up to 5 years in prison. If a long and tedious process is asked of all customers that want their phone unlocked, this isn’t useful and shouldn’t be accepted.
Every company is different; you will have to read the fine print to find out what your cell phone service offers (Read More). Only phones can be unlocked, no smart watches or tablets are included in the current unlock bill. Therefore, it’s no surprise that cell phone carriers like AT&T and Verizon were slow to come to an agreement about changing the law so that cell phones can legally be unlocked.
The deal constructed stated that unlocked cell phones are legal, but they won’t come unlocked, instead customers have to ask their carrier to unlock the phone. The bill now goes to the White House for signature.The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, brought by Sen. In detail, the bill would allow consumers the ability to unlock the SIM on their devices and take it to any carrier for service. Though when working on the bill, a deal was struck with the CTIA (who represents the carriers) that did make some requirements. This makes sense because of new programs that carriers are running that allow consumers to buy a device on an Equipment Installment Plan (EIP).
So, this bill also comes with a little more attention paid to this idea being stretched to cover more.
Have you encountered any issues getting your device unlocked since the law went into effect? The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is currently the reason that unlocking cell phones is illegal. Once upon a time it was legal to unlock your phone, but since 2012, unlocking your cell phone has been punishable by jail time. If unlocking is illegal, that means you can’t buy a Verizon iPhone and then use it at AT&T, even if you later switch to their services. It’s become normal, but when you think about it it’s completely unfair, if you have purchased the phone it’s rightfully yours and you should be allowed to do as you please with it.
From 2006 until 2012 the Library of Congress made an amendment in the law that allowed cell phones to be unlocked legally.

There are so many issues with this law that there is an entire movement surrounding the need to fix the DMCA, hence how over 115,000 signatures were collected last year in protest. He also strives to make these measures permanent so that if one-year people turn a blind eye, cell phone companies don’t end up winning over the average American again. Cell phone companies further negotiated that phones can only be unlocked after the contract is canceled or has come to an end. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reinstates the rule that would allow consumers to use their device on other networks by unlocking their device -- whether on their own or by a third-party service.
Well the bill that passed through the Senate just one week ago, has now passed the House and is due to be signed by Obama. While the device is still being paid off, consumers will not be able to switch to a new carrier.
That said, carriers ask that they get to keep the process they once had where they provide an unlock code.
House of Representatives yesterday with a vote of 295 - 114 that would make it legal again.
This is hugely important for promoting healthy competition and empowering consumer choice, not to mention being very useful for travel.
President Obama calls the new law, “…another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, that that they can find a cellphone carrier that meets their needs and their budget.” He signed the bill into action and applauded Congress for their good work. When you want it to do something more, you can’t modify it.” Many of these unwarranted bans come directly from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The strange thing is that in 2012 they decided not to extend the exception, causing quite a commotion. It is said that cell phone service providers were putting a lot of pressure on the Library of Congress to leave the law as-is, without the amendment from 2006-2012.
Another requirement that CTIA asked for-and received-was that carriers get full control over the unlocking process. The consumer who is interested in switching carriers needs to ask their current carrier for the unlock code. Though the bill in question would repeal many of the limits placed on phone unlocking, the bill's author would like it to keep bulk mobile phone unlocking companies in the ban. However, every three years, the Library of Congress can make specific exemptions to this law. This started a movement, which was able to collect over 114,000 signatures bound for the White House, in hopes of changing the law. This way, cell phones would legally have to remain locked, an obvious upside for businesses like Verizon and T-Mobile. It also directs the Librarian of Congress to consider whether other wireless devices, like tablets, should be eligible for unlocking. In the entire scheme of things, this is a minor issue, since now our smart phones will be our smartphones.
These companies will often buy used handsets, unlock them, and resell them, which wireless carriers don't like so much.
You only need 100,000 signatures in order for the White House to check into an issue and offer a response.
This addendum is still under debate, plus we have to wait and see what the Senate will do with it. Later that same year, in 2013, President Obama spoke publicly about the issue, and asked that the Federal Communications Commission change out the rules and give consumers back their right to unlock their phone.
The bipartisan Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act puts consumers first, promotes competition in the wireless phone marketplace, and encourages continued use of existing devices,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.

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