The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that would grant mobile subscribers the right to unlock their handsets, enabling them to use the device on different operators’ networks. At present many US cellcos tether devices to their networks, discouraging users from switching providers by forcing them to pay out for a new handset if they wish to sign up with a competing operator. The legislation would effectively eliminate this practice by enabling customers to continue using their device after transferring between service providers. According to Reuters, several major carriers responded to pressure from consumer groups and pledged in December last year to make it easier for subscribers to unlock their phones.
The bill had first been introduced in 2013, but was delayed after its author added a provision banning ‘bulk unlocking,’ whereby subscribers sell their devices to a third party which then unlocks the phones en masse. Former advocates of the bill withdrew their support after the inclusion of the new provision, with four democrat representatives calling on their fellow party members to oppose the bill, claiming that the addition: ‘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.’