The White House has finally decided that they are for the unlocking of cell phones and that the process of unlocking your own phone should be legal. So why is this a big deal? There are several reasons.
As of January 26, 2013, it became illegal to unlock a cell phone to access different networks. This new law banned the practice of unlocking phones based on copyright infringement according to Digital Millennium Copyright Act's(PDF) (DMCA) federal anti-hacking law.
This change came as part of a 3 year cycle for renewing the DMCA. In this cycle, the Library of Congress, which had the job of approving exemptions to the law, decided not to exempt the software locks that cell phone carriers use to prevent them from being used on other carrier networks.
For most people who buy a cell phone on a two year contract, the thought of whether or not their phone could be unlocked was not something they usually concerned themselves with. Well, now that unlocking your phone can land you in jail, people are quite concerned.
So concerned in fact, that under an initiative that started an online petition on the White House webpage, 114,322 signatures were received. This initiative was started by Derek Khanna, a once GOP staffer who got fired for pitching a paper on copyright policy.
Although the minimum required 100,000 signatures was reached by Feb. 24, 2013, it wasn't until Derek Khanna appeared on Democracy Now, that the White House finally gave a response. Democracy Now is a daily progressive, nonprofit, independently syndicated program of news, analysis, and opinion, aired by more than 1000 radio, television, satellite and cable TV networks in North America.
In its response, the White House essentially says that they agree with the 114,322 petitioners that individuals "should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties", that it is "common sense" and that they are for "protecting consumer choice". All of this, conveniently after Derek Khanna hit the air waves.
Whether or not it was a coincidence, it is good to finally have a response from the current administration and we will look forward to changes in this law that would otherwise criminalize everyday citizens.