back to article It's official: You can now legally carrier-unlock your mobile in the US

President Obama has signed off on the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, meaning that, in the US, people can take their mobile phone and unlock it from the carrier that sold it to them. President Obama signs the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act President Obama signs the Unlocking …

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It's nice to see people are chipping away on the DMCA

Unfortunately the US is probably the only country where this is possible, since there are braindead international contracts which are used by other countries to argue against abolishing their local DMCA versions. In the US nobody cares about international law.

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Facepalm

Re: It's nice to see people are chipping away on the DMCA

You are fking joking right? The US originally pushed DMCA variants onto the rest of the world via trade agreements (AKA "agree to trade with us or else").

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Re: It's nice to see people are chipping away on the DMCA

I think the threat's starting to lose its bite. Some countries seem to be threatening to take the "or else" and close relations with the US, meaning they don't care anymore.

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Re: It's nice to see people are chipping away on the DMCA

'Only in the US.....'. Tosh.

In the UK there are shops on the high street who will unlock your phone for a tenner. I think every one of the high street mobile phone retailers sells unlocked versions of popular phones (possibly not every phone nor every shop: I cannot check everything). I have bought nothing but unlocked phones for 10 years now.

In curtailing personal freedoms, the US is turning into the world leader,

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Re: It's nice to see people are chipping away on the DMCA

Well of course the US pushed the DMCA. However if you go to a politician outside of the UK, they will always refer to the international agreements.

For an US politician international agreements are not an argument, they just want them to make life in other places worth and just ignore them when they become problematic.

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Re: It's nice to see people are chipping away on the DMCA

International Law?

As with all Despotic Democracies they choose what to follow and what to ignore.

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GBE

Re: It's nice to see people are chipping away on the DMCA

"In curtailing personal freedoms, the US is turning into the world leader,"

That's all an extension of a Bush policy based on the "they hate our freedom" theory.

If we eliminate all our freedom, then nobody will hate us anymore, and we'll all be safe from terrorists!

Bush and company were very enthusiastic about eliminating freedom in the US and had made a pretty good start on it. Some of us had hoped that Obama would reverse course on that plan, but we've been sadly disappointed. Progress towards freedom-elimination may have slowed a little at best...

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Boffin

A glimmer of hope

Now, if the US could simply pass legislation making it illegal to produce non-user-serviceable products. As it currently stands, it seems that Apple is turning MacBook Pro laptops into non-upgradeable devices and that's a bad precedent.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

How about one that guarantees the right of exhaustion in regards to virtual (download-only) software? And prevents software from being leased without a formal written contract (to keep business software leases OK)?

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Re: A glimmer of hope

If Apple want to sell a Macbook that's a single lump of cast plastic: that's their business.

If you buy it; that's your choice.

For the love of God, don't encourage "da gubbermint" to legislate screw sizes , access panel arrangements and all that jazz.

Next you'll be asking "Why is my Tablet expensive, thick and not waterproof like the ones they sell in Japan"?

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Holmes

Re: A glimmer of hope

I tend to follow that simple in appearance (but very useful piece of advice) rather than just buy things that "Look nice".

""If you do not like a certain aspect of a product, or the product contains draconian measures to prevent you using it in any way you see fit, do not buy it.""

I know it is a new concept, and takes a while to sink in, but hey we're IT people, we can cope with complexity.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

Da gubbermint legislated GSM, that didn't turn out too badly.

No need to legislate screw sizes though. If some mass produced item with a large impact on the environment like the MacBook can't be easily repaired or dismantled for recycling then I honestly think it should be taxed accordingly. That'll focus Apple's brilliant marketing mind (because it's marketing which has driven extremely thin designs with glued-on screens and batteries).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A glimmer of hope

GSM was developed by a non-governmental standards body.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A glimmer of hope

> don't encourage "da gubbermint" to legislate screw sizes

Guess what, Einstein: screw sizes are regulated. ANSI, ISO, DIN, etc. So are power outlets, plastic cups, toilet paper roll dimensions, etc.

if these items weren't regulated, you wouldn't be able to find a replacement screw for your skateboard at the hardware store. You'd only be able to buy it from the manufacturer, who would have a patent on it, and would charge you USD $150 retail for it.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

That's not what's stopping a skateboard maker from doing that. Apple does it now to some degree; it just suffers from "if man can make it, man can make it again" and "patents aren't enforceable across borders". Sometimes, standard screws are just a ton cheaper to use. Other times, it's demanded of the customer. Take the skateboard again. Above a certain level of skill, skateboarders start customizing their boards, which means they will be demanding parts that can be swapped out easily or they won't be buying.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A glimmer of hope

ANSI, DIN and ISO are not legislative bodies. They are standards bodies. They don't regulate. The government doesn't generally regulate or specify which standards are to be used - industry cooperates to produce standards that then become the norm.

There's no legislation or national regulation regarding screw sizes, plugs or skateboards. Phone chargers are a good example: governments required that a standard must exist. They didn't legislate what that standard should contain.

Try again.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A glimmer of hope

> Guess what, Einstein: screw sizes are regulated. ANSI, ISO, DIN, etc.

Guess what, idiot: ANSI, ISO, DIN etc aren't regulations. They are standards.

You are free to use any non standard screw size you wish to. Since it is non standard you will have to pay a manufacturer to make it and it will cost you more than using a standard screw.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

"can't be easily repaired or dismantled for recycling"

I'd go along with you on repair but when it comes to dismantling for recycling I'd guess a hammer might be sufficient.

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Trollface

Re: A glimmer of hope

???1!!!!!11!!

apple make skateboards?

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Re: A glimmer of hope

Now, if the US could simply pass legislation making it illegal to produce non-user-serviceable products. As it currently stands, it seems that Apple is turning MacBook Pro laptops into non-upgradeable devices and that's a bad precedent.

Some things really shouldn't be user serviceable because most users are completely clueless. Capacitors in PSUs spring to mind; anyone who doesn't know what they're doing could give themselves a nasty injury. I realise that some people here may have adequate skills to service a power supply but if you can do that safely you can also probably figure out how to get past funny shaped proprietary screws.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

The current glued-together iPad/iPhone/MacBooks are far easier to recycle than the equivalent products held together with screws. Pop up 'em in an oven, the glue melts and they fall apart. Turn up the oven a bit and all the SMD components fall off the PCB too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A glimmer of hope

> governments required that a standard must exist.

Guess what: a government requiring that something exists means it's a statutory requirement.

It doesn't matter WHO develops the standard, or what's in it. What matters is that the existence of said Standard is a statutory requirement.

Try again.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A glimmer of hope

> Guess what, idiot: ANSI, ISO, DIN etc aren't regulations. They are standards.

Why don't you look up the definition of a Standard, Genius.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

Da gubbermint legislated GSM, that didn't turn out too badly.

Not in the US where this law applies. The transition from analog saw several different technologies being used and at one point it wouldn't matter if you could unlock your phone since it would only work on a single carrier. It's gotten better over here but that's only because smaller players got gobbled by the bigger ones who weren't interested in having six different systems in their network.

Now let's look at something the US gub't did legislate for a long time. Automotive sealed beam headlamps hamstrung automotive design in the US for quite some time but certainly made it simple to replace as you had a choice of manufacturers of your 7" hi/lo round lamps up until 1957 when 5-3/4" lamps were allowed which were available in hi/lo and hi only. Then in 1974 Uncle Sam authorized the unthinkable - rectangular lamps! I wonder what cars could have looked like if folks could have designed lighting systems to a functional requirement rather than being forced to use one of A, B, C or D.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple make skateboards!

Of course they do. They brand them as MacBook Air but are bugger all use in computing contexts, so people fix wheels to them :-P

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Boffin

Re: A glimmer of hope

GSM was developed by a non-governmental standards body.

Which was a working body set up by the CEPT (part of the then EC). GSM was later ratified by national governments in the Bonn declaration.

I wonder what cars could have looked like if folks could have designed lighting systems to a functional requirement rather than being forced to use one of A, B, C or D.

The mobile phone equivalent of that would be the GSM working body setting up a standard for how mobile phones should look, which would also be silly.

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Wow, the Apple hating trolls manage to bring them in any thread

If you claim you're not trolling, then please provide me a list of laptops that have a socketed CPU. Nevermind, I guess I already have that list, because there are none.

I suppose you'd say you're talking about stuff like RAM, not CPUs. If so, who gets to decide what parts need to be upgradeable and what parts are OK to be built in? Who decides what categories of products it applies to, since you can't upgrade RAM in any phone or tablet? Better write your law carefully, otherwise Surface might count as a laptop if it ships with a keyboard, and Microsoft would be unable to sell it lest they run afoul of your stupid law.

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Happy

Re: Wow, the Apple hating trolls manage to bring them in any thread

I may be out of context, but I had to jump in and point out my HP laptop (and the one I had before it) has socketed RAM, socketed CPU and socketed GPU. I have upgraded the CPU on more than one occasion. Sadly GPU upgrades are limited to one or two whitelisted by the BIOS, which rather defeats the purpose.

I am all for laptopts being as modular and upgradable as possible. Some vendors have been quite good at this at times.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

Standard. Any norm, convention or requirement

Technical standard, an established norm or requirement about technical systems

International standard, standards suitable for worldwide use

Standards organization, an entity primarily concerned with maintaining standards

Standardization, the process of establishing technical standards

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A glimmer of hope

> Which was a working body set up by the CEPT (part of the then EC). GSM was later ratified by national governments in the Bonn declaration.

It is completely pointless to try arguing facts with the Tea Party crowd. Their motto is "Get the Gubmint's hands off Medicare".

Fact: Medicare - in the USA - is a Federal Government health insurance program.

They perceive the idea of a light bulb's specifications being regulated by a government as an offensive trampling on their imaginary liberties.

In a truly Free Society, according to these Freedom Thinkers, light bulbs would come in all shapes, sizes, wattage, etc, and none of them would fit their light bulb sockets at home. But that doesn't matter, because the light bulbs would be Free.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

American National standard screw threads of the Sellers form were standardized by an act of Congress back in the late 1800's. In 1949 the Unified system which is based on a modified Sellers thread was adopted by the english-speaking world due to small but expensive incompatibilities which came to light during the War production.

In fact yes, I am a pro mechanic/millwright.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

The sheer volume of assumptions, logical fallacies and strawmen in your post is staggering, anon.

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Re: A glimmer of hope

You may want a job where highly explosive lithium/poly batteries are baked out for recycling, but I think the rest of us will pass.....

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Re: A glimmer of hope

Heck I'd love to encourage the use of standard closures for power supplies, CRT's, and such. The id10ts that fry themselves will generate a net improvement to the species.

[Having discharged a .1 Fd,, yes 1/10th of a Farad, capacitor charged to 25 kV, yeah I've felt the power.]

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Re: Wow, the Apple hating trolls manage to bring them in any thread

Funny since I have accumulated a nice collection of processors recovered from socketed laptops from everyone BUT Apple.

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Doubly surprised.

I don't know what's more astonishing.

a) That the US allowed the telcos to successfully lobby for the original move to make unlocking a crime.

b) That the legislature eventually responded to people's outrage about the above travesty.

The lesson (I guess) is that big business will push us around as far as it can until they go just that bit too far.

Locking quite unnecessary anyway if the customer is locked into a 24 month contract.

In the case of pre-pay (Pay As You Go) the telcos could just drop the subsidies on those phones.

Probably, the real solution is to uncouple the telcos from the selling of phones -- let them sell connections and regular electronics chains sell phones. Chances are both connection deals and phone prices would be cheaper with more competition.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doubly surprised.

The telcos didn't lobby to make unlocking a crime. It was the music and film industry that did all the lobbying for the DMCA. They wanted to make it illegal to circumvent DRM on their content.

As usual though the enacted law hit a wider target and it has been used for everything from preventing cryptographic research to stopping the manufacture of certain universal garage door openers to stopping you unlocking your mobile phone.

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Bizarre...

Over here in France, it is possible to unlock a subsidised phone after about three months. Used to be complicated, but now (Orange & Bouygues, assume SFR is similar) it is just a web form and the code is sent by mail or SMS.

I unlock my phones the moment the period expires so if my mother needs a phone and her one is acting up (it is ancient), I can swap SIMs. As far as Orange is concerned, it is no loss to them. All of my calls are included within my contact, and I'm still tied to my XX month contract, with a pretty hefty penalty payment is I want to quit early.

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Re: Bizarre...

The big advantage is that if you go abroad, you can buy a local SIM and avoid roaming charges.

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Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act?

I thought these days USian legislation titles were supposed to be witty, or at least half-witty, backronyms.

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Re: Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act?

They only use the backronyms when they're trying to sell the public something they wouldn't want if it was called out in the name, like PATRIOT ACT. When they're trying to give us something we actually do want (it happens a few times a year, believe it or not) the name much better reflects the actual content of the law.

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Anonymous Coward

Ironic

that the reason why most people want to unlock their phone (read Jailbreak) is to play pirated content and games...

That is STILL illegal, so really you got nothing....

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Re: Ironic

"....why most people want to unlock their phone (read Jailbreak) is to play pirated content and games."

I rather doubt that.

I'm sure the major incentive is to switch to a better value provider.

Probably also to enable a newer version of Android than has been released by the telco -- or to rid the phone of branded cruft.

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Re: Ironic

Or to be able to use the phone while overseas without the extortionate roaming charges (especially for data).

Even if they do want to root their phone, why is that a problem? The vendor can refuse a warranty claim if the problem can be shown to be caused by the rooting process. Piracy is a problem with or without this law. The piracy problem was not solved for the 18 months when it was banned so why would it be solved if the ban remained in place.

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FAIL

Re: Ironic

Jailbreaking and carrier unlocking are 2 completely separate things. The former involves hacking the OS - one reason being to allow pirated content to be played, but there are many other reasons.

Carrier unlocking is what is under discussion here, and that simply allows mobile phones to be used on networks other than the one on which they were originally purchased. Carrier locking of phones has been going on since the early days of GSM. It has always been possible to buy (carrier) unlocked phones - that doesn't mean you can play pirated content on them.

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Legally untidy.

The user is now legally entitled to try to unlock their phone, but the manufacturer is not restricted from installing hardware locks to prevent them.

So what we have now is a situation where your ability to exercise your consumer right is dependent upon a Battle of Engineering between the phone manufacturer trying to lock it down and the semi-underground hacker community trying to find new ways to defeat the locks.

I find this legally disturbing.

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Re: Legally untidy.

Where do you see the ability for phone makers to install locks beyond the carrier lock to make it difficult to unlock the carrier lock?

The law requires that consumers be able to unlock their phones, if they put in an extra layer of software that said "please provide password to authenticate this unlock" as the last step and didn't tell anyone what that was, they'd be in violation of the law just passed.

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Re: Legally untidy.

And it runs out in a year, because y'know, consumer rights are more dangerous than mass surveillance so it must be renewed more often.

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UCCWCA - Poor choice of acronym

What's that supposed to spell huh?

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