White House: “It’s time to legalize cell phone unlocking”

After a petition to the U.S. Federal government to review cellphone unlocking legislation gained more than 114,000 online signatures, the White House was required to officially respond. On Monday it did, citing consumer support for legal cellphone unlocks.

The petition, started by Sina Khanifar, was filed in response to a Jan. 26 date that put cell phone unlocking activities in control of the network operators, essentially making it illegal for consumers to unlock their own phones, even if out of contract or paid in full. The White House response indicates that understands various circumstances where consumers should have the right to unlock their devices, saying,

“This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs — even if it isn’t the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers deserve that flexibility.”

So what happens next?

The Obama administration publicly supports consumer choice in this matter according to the official White House response, but it’s more likely that the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will work with the FCC for further action in support of consumer unlocking of cell phones and tablets.

No action is being taken now that will immediately overturn the current rules. However, now that this has an official White House response, complete with support and a set of actions that can be taken, I hope we see a change sooner rather than later.