News

The government might ‘unlock’ your phone

The government might ‘unlock’ your phone

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?: U.S. wireless carriers often tether, or "lock," smartphones to their networks to encourage consumers to renew their mobile contracts. Consumers, for their part, can often buy new devices at a heavily subsidized price in return for committing to long-term contracts with a single carrier. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would give mobile-phone users the right to “unlock” their devices and use them on competitors’ wireless networks, although Senate action was uncertain.

The House approved the bill easily, by a 295-114 vote, although some Democrats had pushed back against what they said was a last-minute Republican maneuver to change the legislation.

It is not known whether the Senate will consider the bill.

U.S. wireless carriers often tether, or “lock,” smartphones to their networks to encourage consumers to renew their mobile contracts. Consumers, for their part, can often buy new devices at a heavily subsidized price in return for committing to long-term contracts with a single carrier.

Major carriers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US and U.S. Cellular, in December made a voluntary pledge to make it easier for consumers to unlock their cellphones, under pressure from consumer groups and the Federal Communications Commission.

Under current law, those unlocking their phones without permission could face legal ramifications, including jail.

The notion of undoing that law has had wide support from Republicans and Democrats since the bill’s introduction in the House in 2013.

But the bill’s author, Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, added language after the bill had been approved by a partisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee, banning “bulk unlocking.”

Consumer advocates have argued that customers should be allowed to sell their old devices to third parties that could unlock phones in bulk, something the wireless industry opposes.

Four Democrats, led by California Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, wrote to their colleagues on Tuesday to protest the bulk unlocking exclusion.

The new provision “could undercut an important court decision that protects consumer choice and prevents monopolistic practices. We cannot in good conscience support a bill that risks giving up so much for so little gain,” the Democrats said.

A consumer rights group, Public Knowledge, last week suspended its support of the bill.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: Jan. 29

Fresh
oprah

A look at some of the Hollywood headlines that went down in history.

in Sports

Brady full practice participant despite cold, ankle problem

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady listens to a question during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, in Chandler, Ariz. The Patriots play the Seattle Seahawks in NFL football Super Bowl XLIX Sunday, Feb. 1, in Phoenix.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman laughed when told the news and said, “his arm doesn’t have a cold.”

in Sports

Un-Friendly: US fades in 3-2 loss at Chile, extends winless streak to 5

United States soccer head coach Jurgen Klinsmann waits as he is introduced during a press conference in East Hartford, Conn. Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. The U.S. will host Ecuador in a friendly soccer match on Friday.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann unveiled a 3-5-2 formation in his team's 2015 opener, but the Americans once again were tripped up by their habit of fading in the second half.

in Sports

Lawmaker again takes aim at NFL tax status

House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah questions acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, during the committee's hearing on oversight of the Secret Service.

Days before the Super Bowl, a Utah lawmaker is again sponsoring a bill that would punt the tax exemption for professional sports leagues.

in Sports

Mayweather and Pacquiao exchange phone numbers at Heat game

FILE - In this combination of file photos, U.S. boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, prepares to spar at a gym in east London on May 22, 2009, and Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines, weighs in for the junior welterweight boxing match against British boxer Ricky Hatton, May 1, 2009, in Las Vegas. The March 13 , 2010 megafight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been thrown into jeopardy. Mayweather's camp is demanding the fighters submit to Olympic-type drug testing in the weeks leading up to the bout. Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's manager, says the fight will not go on if Pacquiao doesn't agree to blood testing under standards followed by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao have finally met — in person. And now talks might get serious about them meeting in the ring.

Bellingham Traffic