The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), which represents smaller regional and rural carriers, is petitioning the Copyright Office to support legal unlocking of wireless devices.
The issue is near and dear to the hearts of CCA’s carrier members, as customers looking to leave the larger carriers often need to have their devices unlocked in order to switch to another provider.
CCA said it strongly supports an exemption that would allow consumers to unlock all of their devices that connect to a wireless network.
“Because this proceeding is forward-looking, an exemption should allow consumers the ability to unlock any relevant device, and not be subservient to the will of any one carrier or manufacturer,” wrote Michael Lazarus, managing member of Telecommunications Law Professionals PLLC on behalf of the CCA. “In addition, as directed by Congress, the exemption should not limit who may provide assistance to unlock a device, and therefore should allow an agent of the consumer, whether it be another person or a wireless provider, to perform the unlocking procedure, just as a locksmith may unlock an individual’s car or home when they do not have the necessary key.”
The Copyright Office in January 2013 had made unlocking a cell phone illegal in some circumstances. The move was made to help stem large-scale phone trafficking but left a chance that consumers could face penalties for unlocking their devices, ranging from fines of $2,500 to five years in prison.
At the time, more than 100,000 people signed a petition imploring the White House to make unlocking legal again, and the FCC agreed to investigate the matter, and in July of last year Congress unanimously approved a bill that made it legal to unlock phones.
The Copyright Office is in the process of reviewing its present rules and could move to revise those rules.
In a statement, CCA President & CEO Steven K. Berry said that the decision to extend the unlocking exemption should be an easy one for the Copyright Office.
“Congress demonstrated its support for unlocking by passing a bill that the President signed last year,” Berry wrote. “There has been near universal support for the exemption, and unlocking clearly benefits consumers and competitive carriers, especially smaller carriers who still have trouble accessing the latest devices. I encourage the Copyright Office to recommend to the Librarian of Congress adoption of the unlocking exemptions proposed by CCA.”