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back to article Over 100,000 sign White House petition for handset unlocking

The Obama administration is going to have to answer to mobile phone users after more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for the unlocking of handsets to be made legal again. The protest was sparked by the decision by the Librarian of Congress last October to ban the unlocking of handsets under the latest …

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So the petition system has been proven to be a scam to keep the public quiet for a while.

Thought so.

As you were.

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Anonymous Coward

Already done

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/admit-these-petitions-are-just-going-be-ignored/VNNZ0JBs

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WTF?

> Mobile operators argue that locking of handsets is essential, since they have to subsidize the cost of the hardware and need to make their money back over the course of a contract.

Erm, people who buy *initially* subsidised mobile phones still have to pay for them over the term of their contract. Exactly what, I wonder, is the potential loss that they are talking about?

The only thing I can imagine is preventing the customer from using their phone with a competing service after the contract has ended, and the phone is actually more than paid for, and belonging to the customer I might add.

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WTF?

It gets better

those contracts have a termination penalty. the reason offered for the termination penalty is TO PAY FOR THE SUBSIDIZED PHONE. Everyone I know who isn't provided a phone from work is going to non-traditional carriers, because the scam is out of hand. I'm waiting for them to try to outlaw any but the big 3 wireless providers.

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Re: It gets better

Indeed.

I wonder if really this law has any teeth anyway. Seriously, is anyone really going to take any notice?

I presume that they will come for the Ebayers offering unlocking services.

It will merely move abroad of course so that any money to be made out of it will no longer be USians.

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WTF?

"Erm, people who buy *initially* subsidised mobile phones still have to pay for them over the term of their contract. Exactly what, I wonder, is the potential loss that they are talking about?"

^ That. 100x that. You'd think that unlocking the phone was equivalent to the act of not paying your contract. Why on earth do they care what you do with the phone, as long as you're paying them. The only thing they can possibly be aiming for is effectively locking you in beyond the contract term, as the only option you have of leaving after contract expiry is to buy a new phone.

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Pint

"The only thing I can imagine is preventing the customer from using their phone with a competing service after the contract has ended, and the phone is actually more than paid for, and belonging to the customer I might add."

Silly them for thinking that after buying a phone and sitting through a two year contract that they might actually *own* it.

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WTF?

Someone better explain that to Canadian cellcos

Supposedly this a loan and not a subsidy.

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Pint

Cut my ties

Waved the big bye bye to our cell phone provider this week , $100 a month for 1000 minutes on two lines with messaging, data plan was another $50 per month per phone. Moved to a PAYG outfit who offer unlimited voice/text/data for $45 a month, you just have to pay full price for the phones. No brainer.

Pints bought with savings after a couple of months.

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Re: Cut my ties

Same here. I paid full price for my unlocked Samsung Android phone, then went to T-Mobile and bought a sim only pay-as-you-go card. Now I pay $99 per YEAR for my phone. I used to pay Verizon over $70 per month. I'm very glad the T-Mobile merger with AT&T failed, as I'm sure the plan I'm on would go away quickly.

I don't have a data plan, but Wi-Fi is everywhere now.

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@Efros Re: Cut my ties

"Moved to a PAYG outfit who offer unlimited voice/text/data for $45 a month, you just have to pay full price for the phones. "

That isn't what I'd call Pay As You Go, here in the UK. That's what we call a SIM only contract. PAYG is when you buy and load credit onto your phone account which then gets reduced when you consume minutes/texts/data. I wonder why the difference in terminology?

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Re: @Efros Cut my ties

On Virgin Mobile I receive unlimited texts, more internet access than I''m going to use on my non-smart phone and a few other goodies for £15 a month. PAYG. I simply top up £15 before the end of each month and receive my allowances on the 1st of the next month. Oh and I keep the credit so there's all the minutes I need.

I do wonder whether he meant PAYG or SIM-only contract though.

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@Another Reader

You're paying too much. £12 a month on Giff Gaff gets you 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data, plus unlimited Giff Gaff to Giff Gaff calls and texts for 3 months. Alternatively, £15 nets you the same except the minutes are boosted up to 400.

Still, I'm glad I'm not that side of the pond!

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Happy

And, meanwhile, in the Far East ...

many governments have decreed all cell phones shall be sold unlocked and without any restraints! And governments generally own one of the networks in most countries.

And no Carrier IQ (remember that).

New SIMs (plus start off air time) costs USD$5.00; replacement SIMs USD$0.15 (15 cents) with old number retention. No monthly top ups - my SMS phone has not had any money added since the original USD$50 for almost 6 years!

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Anonymous Coward

And in other news

And in other news, several cows belched on a dairy farm in Montana.

Which has as much chance of changing the laws on copyright (or indeed, any laws in general) as does any of these Whitehouse petitions.

If people really wanted to get the attention of the legislative branch (the folks who ACTUALLY can do something about this), they would send in checks for campaign donations, with some invalidating error (no signature, obvious mismatch between the written out number and the printed number, etc.) to their CongressCritter, and when contacted, say "Oh, well, maybe I'll fix it *when you fix the law*".

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The Librarian — he say...

Ook!

I think someone called him a monkey — so he won't be doing you any favours now...

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I'm over subsidized

If I went to the AT$T store and signed up for a 2-year contract, I could get a new phone for "free" or pay a bit for a premium unit. With the same plan as I have now the monthly charge would be about $45 in round numbers. With the phone I have now, all bought and paid for a couple of years ago off of eBay, my monthly bill is $45. WTF? With the exception of being legally obligated for 2 years, there is no difference in charges between having a subsidized phone and a purchased phone.

My problem is I have been too lazy to change over. I start a new job making more money in a couple of weeks and I think that one of my first purchases with my new and improved paycheck will be to finally update to a smart phone. I have shopped around a little and I can get a dual SIM phone with a nice set of features for around $175 out the door. With a competitive (ie: not At$t or Sprint) carrier, I can get unlimited everything for about ..... $45 per month. Fortunately, the congress critters made a mistake and did something right this decade by legislating that phone numbers shall be portable so I can keep the same phone number I have had for years and years. Maybe with the liberal application of pain killers and single malt scotch the government may get something else right. They might also get dead from the combination, but it's a win either way.

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Flame

Locking Phones

Seems to me that if the carrier wants to sell a phone for cheap (subsidized) and connect you with a two year contract, he is going to get the purchase price of the phone during the life of the contract.

There really is NO JUSTIFICATION for locking the phone. LOCKING should be ILLEGAL. So then if I want to dump my contract and go to another carrier, I can do that by paying the early out penalty and everyone should be happy.

That would make the playing field level for all carriers and promote competition.

Tom S

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FAIL

Ridiculous...

Handset locks are ridiculous and immoral. There is already this little thing called "contract law" which is designed to protect the operators against customers who would take the handset and refuse to continue paying the contract.

Providing a user complies with the terms of the contract, what they do with the phone should be entirely up to them. Users may want to travel to other countries and use local simcards, they may want to lend their phone to friends or family, they may decide they dont like their new handset and continue using their service with their old handset while selling the new one.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ridiculous...

The problem with contract law is that it will cost more to enforce contracts than they're worth.

At the moment the phone companies have a little assurance that even if the bill is not paid they can prevent the phone from being used because it's locked to a network they control.

Without locking they will have to be more careful on credit-checking and probably cover the cost of this and losses from defaulters by increasing prices to honest punters. They might even replace "contract handset subsidy" with "contract handset rental" to retain control of the handset; then people could choose to buy unlocked handsets and pay for connection services (PAYG or Pay Monthly) or rent a locked handset from the telco.

Phone companies aren't stupid, they won't subsidise hardware if the risk of return-on-investment is too high. If push comes to shove they will just adjust their business model to suit whatever the law allows; I don't think any of this will result in a real improvement for customers though.

I do agree that phones should be unlocked at the end of the contract period though, at that point the handset has been fully paid for (from a legal standpoint) and the original subsidy should be written off. Maybe phones should be labelled with a "Contract Expiry" date that's legally binding on the telco?

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Stupid Question

What has this got to do with copyright, patents or intellectual property of any kind that makes it reasonable to enforce under the DMCA? Is my telco able to claim copyright on things I say over the phone as longs as I have a contract with them? The DMCA is supposed to prevent people from circumventing anti-piracy measures not have Carte Blanche jurisdiction over every kind of digital lock-in mechanism.

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What President Obama should do,

is declare his support for phone locking, and call for it to be compulsory.

Legislators then would immediately outlaw locking just to annoy him - with any luck too quickly for their moneyed masters to tell them not to. They might even amend the Constitution, so that it sticks.

On the other hand, that's a dangerous door for Democrats to open. The last amendment was to stop popular Democrat presidents from getting re-elected too much. On the plus side, it means that the president doesn't have to try to be popular, any more.

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