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 Joseph LeahyNegotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break MORE (D-Vt.) and ranking member Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley raises concerns about objectivity of report critical of GOP tax law's effects Overnight Health Care: Key Trump drug pricing proposal takes step forward | Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic loses bid for license | 2020 Democrats to take part in Saturday forum on abortion rights Key Trump proposal to lower drug prices takes step forward 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 GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling 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.