Compromise struck on cellphone unlocking bill

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have reached a bipartisan deal on legislation that would allow people to “unlock” their cellphones when changing providers.

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The bill, which will be considered on Thursday, would allow users to take their mobile device from one wireless network to another, and is backed by Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyDems get it wrong: 'Originalism' is mainstream, even for liberal judges Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Dems land few punches on Gorsuch MORE (D-Vt.) and ranking member Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Iowa).

“Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider,” Leahy said in a statement.

“Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in the wireless marketplace,” he said.

Grassley called the bipartisan compromise “an important step forward in ensuring that there is competition in the industry and in safeguarding options for consumers as they look at new cell phone contracts.”

“Empowering people with the freedom to use the carrier of their choice after complying with their original terms of service is the right thing to do,” he said.

The House in February passed a companion bill sponsored on cellphone unlocking from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteWeek ahead: Senate takes aim at Obama-era 'blacklisting' rule House panel blocks Dem effort on Trump's potential business conflicts House panel to hold hearing on foreign surveillance law MORE (R-Va.).

Late last year, after prodding from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, major players in the wireless industry reached a voluntary agreement to unlock phones so they can be used on competitors' networks.

While the movement in Congress and industry agreement could clear legal obstacles for cellphone unlocking, technological barriers could still keep users from using the same devices when switching networks.