Back in October 2012, some people decided on a new law that may have some impact on your future mobile use. The people were the Librarian of congress, who is the office in charge of setting the rules to execute the recently updated Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
They decided that smartphone users would only have 90 days to buy a new phone and still have the ability to unlock it. As of January 26th this year, it is illegal to unlock a new smartphone without the permission of the carrier.
Previously, you could unlock your phone to use it with another carrier or multiple carriers, or to use it with international sim cards to lower roaming fees when travelling overseas.
There are a lot of people unhappy with this move, as it seems pretty blatant that not only will it reduce competition, it is the government and the carriers deciding what you can do with your own property. There has even been a petition to the White house to revoke this new law, but more on that later.
It’s not all bad, as it is still legal to unlock all smartphones purchased before January 26th, and it also possible to purchase unlocked phones off contract from carriers. Verizon still sell their iPhone 5 unlocked, Sprint have announced that they will unlock their iPhones for international use after three months, and AT & T will unlock an iPhone once it is off contract, with a few caveats ( see http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB414532&cv=820#fbid=jBHQIEAKsA7)
The new law seems to be targeting third-party online unlocking services, but it also has the ability to affect everyday smartphone owners and users, and law-breakers face a fine of up to $500,000 and/or 5 years in jail.
As of today, a petition on the White House “We the people’ website asking to revoke this law has 61,395 signatures. It needs 38,605 signatures before February 23rd to reach it’s goal of 100,000.
So, be aware of what you can do with your carrier now regarding unlocking- and go to https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-unlocking-cell-phones-legal/1g9KhZG7 to sign the petition if you think it could negatively affect you in the future!