FCC to investigate ban on unlocking cellphones

Josh Peterson Contributor
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The FCC will investigate the recent ban on unlocking cellphones, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

A recent ban by the Librarian of Congress against the unlocking of cellphones went into affect on January 26, prohibiting smartphone owners from unlocking on-contract devices purchased after that date and transferring them to a new mobile carrier.

Unlocking cellphones was previously exempt from criminal penalty under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). First time offenders, under the new ruling, face up to a $500,000 penalty, five years in jail, or both.

Genachowski’s announcement comes several days after the petition reached over 100,000 signatures on Saturday. The petition had even received the support of computer scientist Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers of the Internet.”

“It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones,” said Genachowski. He stated that the ban raised competition and innovation concerns.

Derek Khanna, technology activist and former Hill staffer for the Republican Study Committee, told The Daily Caller that the FCC’s investigation of the issue was a “terrific development.” Khanna was one of the forces spearheading the petition.

“They should be investigating this — the decision is indefensible,” Khanna said.

He also said that while he thought that the FCC should investigate the issue, it was Congress who ultimately needed to step up and find a solution to the problem.

“The fact that over 100 wireless carriers are against the ruling and two are in favor (AT &T and Verizon) is further evidence that this is a clear case of crony capitalism,” said Khanna.

Stephen Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), said in a statement that he was pleased by the FCC’s announcement.

“Consumers want and deserve a competitive choice and should not face financial burdens when trying to change providers,” said Berry.

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