Smartphone lovers rejoice. The White House has taken it upon itself to declare its support of a petition advocating consumer freedom to unlock smartphones and tablets, according to BostInno on Tuesday.
About time, we say.
While previously the Librarian of Congress had ruled that unlocking mobile devices — even after a contract expired — was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a petition against this ruling on the White House’s “We the People” platform has garnered more than 114,000 signatures, thereby signifying a need for a change in policy.
“It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs,” the White House statement stated.
And they’re right. These days, with technology anywhere and everywhere, consumers should have more control over their technology consumption environments. They should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. After all, they paid for them. So the White House has declared that neither criminal laws nor technological locks should prevent consumers from consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.
Any other declaration would be unfair. We’ve reached a point at which smartphones are so ubiquitous that it hardly matters which service provider a customer chooses. Besides, the choice to open the market makes it all the more competitive, and in a positive way: Whereas when AT&T was once the sole provider of Apple iPhone service, now all service providers need to compete to be the best. And if they are not, they can offer reduced rates, which are desirable for some consumers.
The ability to unlock phones also affects resale rules. Consumers should be able to sell their phones when they finish with them, making money while making good use of their devices. This is good because it limits the exclusiveness of the smartphone-holder club: Now people can purchase used smartphones at reduced rates and still take part in the benefits of smartphone ownership — of which there are many, and more people should be able to enjoy them.
Moreover, focusing criminal efforts on prosecuting smartphone unlockers is a waste of public and government resources. Mostly, there are only benefits to letting people unlock their phones, hence the petition’s approval. Governments have other, more dangerous things to deal with.