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Congress Passes Bill Allowing Consumers to Unlock Cell Phones for Use With Other Carriers: President Barack Obama to Sign Law

First Posted: Jul 26, 2014 09:52 AM EDT
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Photo : Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

President Obama is expected to sign a bipartisan pro-consumer bill that will make it easier for cellphone users to "unlock" their phones and switch their mobile carriers.

The bill overrides a 2012 Copyright Office decision that made it illegal for consumers to switch carriers without first buying a new cellphone and getting approval from their carrier.

"Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act," as the bill has been dubbed, was approved by the Senate last week, and the House unanimously passed it on Friday. Now, it will move on to the president's desk to be passed into law before Congress takes their summer break in August.

Once signed, Americans will have the legal right to unlock their cellphones without getting their carriers' permission.

"Unlocking a phone frees it for use with a wireless carrier other than the one on which it was initially sold. For example, if you bought your cellphone from AT&T, unlocking it could make it usable on T-Mobile," Time explained.

"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," Obama said in a statement, according to Time. "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."

Sina Khanifar, who wrote the original White House petition on the issue, applauded Congress in a statement.

"It took 19 months of activism and advocacy, but we're finally very close to consumers regaining the right to unlock the phones they've legally bought," she said. "I'm looking forward to seeing this bill finally become law -- it's been a long road against powerful, entrenched interests -- but it's great to see citizen advocacy work."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte also released a statement, saying, "This is something that Americans have been asking for and I am pleased that we were able to work together to ensure the swift passage of legislation," reported the Los Angeles Times.

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