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White House Urges Reversal of Ban On Cell-Phone Unlocking

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the set-my-phone-free dept.

Cellphones 256

netbuzz writes "In a dramatic call for action directly prompted by 114,000 signatures on a 'We the People' petition, the Obama Administration moments ago urged the reversal of a federal regulatory decision that had rendered the act of unlocking a cell phone illegal. From the reply: 'The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.' Statements from the FCC and Library of Congress indicate that they back the administration's position."

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Political stunt (-1, Troll)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072135)

Obama knows that such a ban stands no chance of getting through Congress (the big telecommunications companies bought and paid for them long ago). He's just politically grandstanding on a popular issue. Nothing will actually come of it, and he knows it.

Re:Political stunt (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072193)

He's just politically grandstanding on a popular issue. Nothing will actually come of it, and he knows it.

Stating his position is "grandstanding"? He should be silent on it so you can trash him about that as well?

Re:Political stunt (-1, Troll)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072365)

No, grandstanding is going for the easy applause when you know there is absolutely no political price to be paid for doing do (and no chance that it will matter).

Re:Political stunt (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072519)

Like, what you're trying to do, but failing?

Re:Political stunt (-1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072539)

Hi, welcome to /. You must be new here.

Re:Political stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072615)

Please change your username to trollingjj and be done with it.

Re:Political stunt (4, Interesting)

hrvatska (790627) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072565)

So the Obama administration shouldn't have taken a position on this? I guess I expect a presidential administration to take a position on important issues regardless of whether or not the issue is controversial. The Obama administration takes positions on plenty of other things that generate political heat.

Re:Political stunt (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072599)

So the Obama administration shouldn't have taken a position on this?

I'm pretty sure anything Obama does is wrong. Even when he does the "right thing" the anti-Obama crowd claims he did it for the wrong reasons. It's a form of insanity.

Re:Political stunt (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072831)

I'm pretty sure anything Obama does is wrong. Even when he does the "right thing" the anti-Obama crowd claims he did it for the wrong reasons. It's a form of insanity.

I have a friend who, in response to exactly this kind of insanity, simply adds his thanks to Obama for everything good that happens in his life. Having beautiful weather? Thanks Obama! Finding five dollars in a jacket you haven't worn for months? Thank goodness Obama is President! Getting engaged? We might never have met if it wasn't for Obama!

Re:Political stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072865)

It's the "right thing" that helps his handlers and Washington lobby groups and other special interests, but by and large it's the American people who are getting screwed over in this economy. If he appears to be doing the "right thing" it's only to get more votes or brownie points.

Re:Political stunt (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072575)

Stating his position is "grandstanding"? He should be silent on it so you can trash him about that as well?

I'm not the gp, but I think the "grandstanding" accusation speak more to the regular function of that website and the administration's public positions, than the answer to this one small thing. The answer to everything is, "Hello chumps. Not my problem, go away.", unless it's something ridiculously safe.

"Yeah, we totally think you should be able to unlock your awesome iphone" requires as much political gumption as, "We definitely think someone should do something about cancer."

That thing exists as a PR circus, and people seem to love it. But then, people loved Jersey Shore. The purely superficial hat-tip to transparency and open dialog only serves to disguise the fact that he's just-another-Democrat. Though, admittedly, with the best marketing team money can buy.

Re:Political stunt (5, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072233)

The decision was made by the Library of Congress, removing unlocking from the list of things exempt from the DMCA I believe. If they reverse that decision, and it sounds like they will, then the problem is solved unless Congress drafts specific legislation to make it illegal.

Re:Political stunt (3, Informative)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072335)

All Congress has to do is let the 3 years expire again and we're back to the status quo.

Re:Political stunt (4, Insightful)

Dynedain (141758) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072731)

Just like all Congress has to do is let the Patriot Act or the Bush Tax Cuts expire, but you don't see those happening do you?

Re:Political stunt (0)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43073003)

Yeah, I would love to see both of those. I'd also like to see a bunch of other worthless programs expire so we don't have to keep threatening Grandma and her "special needs" grandkid with "Draconian budget cuts"* ** (* cuts in growth, not actual cuts) (** less than 2% cut in growth), and all the other mind numbing scare tactics and blame the (R) rhetoric coming out of the regime in DC.

Seriously, does anyone other than Low Information Voters believe the shit coming out of Obama's Mouth lately? Hell, even some of them have got to catch a clue when the world doesn't end on March 1st like Obama promised.

Re:Political stunt (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072405)

The decision was made by the Library of Congress, removing unlocking from the list of things exempt from the DMCA I believe. If they reverse that decision, and it sounds like they will, then the problem is solved unless Congress drafts specific legislation to make it illegal.

In addition to(as you say) the matter being out of Congress' hands unless they amend the DMCA to change the Librarian of Congress' role, it is in some sense the purpose of these goofy little exemptions to protect the DMCA as a whole.

How better to protect the fundamental overreach of the DMCA(ie. just by combining virtually anything copyrighted with even a totally crap DRM system, anybody can code rules into their product, with those rules being given force of federal law, or at least serving as a presumptively very strong basis for lawsuits) than by having a tame process for throwing the opposition a bone on a few relatively minor; but culturally, educationally, or otherwise symbolically significant issues?

If the intention were to open a real exemption in the DMCA, it'd be legal to break DRM for any purpose that is otherwise legal, and development, use, sale, etc. of circumvention tools and devices would only constitute aggravating factors in copyright infringement cases, rather than crimes in themselves.

Re:Political stunt (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072681)

How better to protect the fundamental overreach of the DMCA(ie. just by combining virtually anything copyrighted with even a totally crap DRM system, anybody can code rules into their product, with those rules being given force of federal law, or at least serving as a presumptively very strong basis for lawsuits) than by having a tame process for throwing the opposition a bone on a few relatively minor; but culturally, educationally, or otherwise symbolically significant issues?

If you're really going to be paranoid, why not just assume that they want to prevent you from removing the trackify software from your phone so you don't have the man up your ass every time your phone sends a packet?

Re:Political stunt (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072955)

How better to protect the fundamental overreach of the DMCA(ie. just by combining virtually anything copyrighted with even a totally crap DRM system, anybody can code rules into their product, with those rules being given force of federal law, or at least serving as a presumptively very strong basis for lawsuits) than by having a tame process for throwing the opposition a bone on a few relatively minor; but culturally, educationally, or otherwise symbolically significant issues?

If you're really going to be paranoid, why not just assume that they want to prevent you from removing the trackify software from your phone so you don't have the man up your ass every time your phone sends a packet?

I'm not usually the hyper-paranoid type, but from a political perspective, I think he's right on this. The best way to protect something ugly like the DMCA is to knock the sharpest edges off it.

Meanwhile, and either way, the DMCA is preserved with relatively minor caveats.

Re:Political stunt (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072699)

Exactly. Case in point:

The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.

Not exactly a condemnation of aggregious overreach with the DMCA. It's a soft response that anyone can safely cheer for.

Re:Political stunt (0)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072415)

The decision was made by the Library of Congress [emphasis mine]

Is the "they" you're referring to Congress? Because *they* haven't said anything about reversing this.

Re:Political stunt (4, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072679)

There is no "they." The GP is wrong. The decision is made by the Librarian of Congress, in accordance with Section 1201(a)(1) title 17, United States Code [copyright.gov] . Any "they" would have to be referring to the Register of Copyrights and the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce, who work in an advisory role.

But, the statement issued by the Library of Congress [loc.gov] says about as little as is possible with so many words. I certainly don't get the feeling that the LoC will revisit the decision, and I don't see where the law provides a mechanism for that, even if they wanted to. The statement refers to a benefit to "review and resolution" in the context of telecommunications policy, says the rulemaking "was not intended to be a substitute for deliberations of broader public policy," and ends with a door slam - "The most recent rulemaking has served this purpose."

Re:Political stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072423)

How does it sound like they will reverse the decision? Last I heard the Library of Congress did not answer to the Executive Branch.

LoC a regulatory agency? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072491)

I had to rub my eyes there for a minute, but apparently the DMCA puts exemptions in the hands of the Librarian [wikipedia.org]

I never envisioned a librarian making rules beyond, "keep quiet", "no reference checkouts", and fines for being overdue.

So. Among other oddities we can now cite the DMCA for making the LoC a regulatory agency!

SHHHHHHH! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072581)

TAKE THAT James Hadley Billington!
This guy's so out of touch he thinks books are relevant to anything.

Easier to put a humiliating slapdown mandated by the proles on some obsolete government functionary rather than smash the Hollywood hydra that wants to throw our childrens in jail.

or something

Re:LoC a regulatory agency? (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072873)

I had to rub my eyes there for a minute, but apparently the DMCA puts exemptions in the hands of the Librarian [wikipedia.org]

I never envisioned a librarian making rules beyond, "keep quiet", "no reference checkouts", and fines for being overdue.

So. Among other oddities we can now cite the DMCA for making the LoC a regulatory agency!

Clearly Congress did not want this power to be in the hands of the Executive Branch. They wanted it out of control of any elected official.
Their reasons for this are not exactly transparent, but I suspect money was exchanged.

Most of the DMCA deals with books, music, movies etc. That much seems sane for the Librarian to handle.

But cell phones only fell under the DMCA due to the necessity to circumvent encryption to bypass carriers locks. This is clearly
a tangential area for the Library, and anytime a manufacturer wants to invoke the DMCA simply encrypting some vaguely necessary key
is all that is needed.

The librarian, with no prior powers of doing anything beyond sushing patrons, is now a quasi-legislative body, which is clearly beyond the
scope of tine institution.

This whole thing could be circumvented by the FCC making rules stating that carrier locked phones may not be imported or sold after
some date. Other countries have done this, and it works fine.

Every valid reason for carrier locks on a phone are obsolete. Carriers can kill IMEIs of stolen phones (including customers who walk away without satisfying their contract on a subsidized phone).

Re:Political stunt (5, Informative)

Artraze (600366) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072521)

Technically it's not so much the "Library of Congress" as it is the "Librarian of Congress", a position appointed by the president, that delivered the decision. The current guy was appointed by Regan in '87, and while it's not terribly clear if he was reappointed by Obama or was just left in place, it is fair to say that he answers to President Obama. (There isn't a specific term on the position; it's life by precedent but there's no reason he couldn't be removed.)

The point is, that this is something that the office of the president has a fair amount of control over. If Obama wants it to happen, there's no real reason it shouldn't. As far as the GP's post, a public "urging" could be seen as grandstanding since this would be a bit like your boss holding a press conference to urge you to change your decision on something. However, as it was publicly asked, a public response is warranted.

With that in mind though, if the ban on unlocking isn't reversed, and rather quickly at that, it'll highlight some serious problems with the system and "grandstanding" would be about the nicest thing you can say about it...

Re:Political stunt (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072965)

Technically it's not so much the "Library of Congress" as it is the "Librarian of Congress", a position appointed by the president,

With the Advice and Consent of the Senate.
It is not clear that the Librarian answers to the President. Nor is it clear that the President can remove him.

Re:Political stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073039)

According to this article, the position is part of the legislative branch NOT the executive branch.
http://techcrunch.com/2013/02/28/fcc-to-investigate-cell-phone-unlocking-ban/

Re:Political stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072697)

So basically, the telcos got to try it on, won, the might politicians do the customer a favor, but in reality, we are exactly back to where we were.

Re:Political stunt (1, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072345)

Actually, I expect this to get some traction. Cell phone unlocking has been legal for a year or two now, and telcos aren't suffering too much from it. This is a small issue that will win Obama some major positive PR. He needs to deliver on small issues like this so people don't notice he hasn't even tried to deliver anything important.

He doesn't even need to get Congress involved. He just needs to have a chat with the Librarian of Congress and work out some quid pro quo. This won't be hard for Obama to actually accomplish.

Re:Political stunt (5, Informative)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072439)

According to the White House response, the relevent parties already had a chat with the LoC, at the normal time, who said "No":

The White House's position detailed in this response builds on some critical thinking done by the President's chief advisory Agency on these matters: the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). For more context and information on the technical aspects of the issue, you can review the NTIA's letter to the Library of Congress' Register of Copyrights (.pdf), voicing strong support for maintaining the previous exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for cell phone carrier unlocking.

Contrary to the NTIA's recommendation, the Librarian of Congress ruled that phones purchased after January of this year would no longer be exempted from the DMCA. The law gives the Librarian the authority to establish or eliminate exceptions -- and we respect that process

The response goes on to say - with some agreement - that the LoC feels that the problem is the DMCA, and that legislation would be a better way to move forward than trying to hack around the DMCA all the time.

So I think the Whitehouse is deliberately avoiding the LoC route. It's not clear whether they would prefer the LoC take action, but it's clear that executive policy is that the situation needs to be resolved permanently, in legislation.

Re:Political stunt (3, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072557)

The really silly thing is that the Library of Congress gets to decide the legality of cell phone unlocking.

Yes, I know, it's because of the travesty that is DMCA, but that doesn't make it any less silly.

Re:Political stunt (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072625)

Yes, I know, it's because of the travesty that is DMCA, but that doesn't make it any less silly.

No, no, of course not, but it does mask it. Like, a man wearing a tutu, bunny slippers, and a singing Billy Bass as a hat is pretty fucking silly. But put that man on a giant merry-go-round with a troupe of nuns yodeling the dictionary backwards, an upside-down pie-eating contest, a poo-flinging monkey in a pope outfit on stilts, and so on, and suddenly the guy in the tutu doesn't stand out so much.

Of course the rational response to all this silliness is to bulldoze the entire merry-go-round into a big hole and cover it with hot tar.

Re:Political stunt (0)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072451)

The Librarian of Congress doesn't answer to the President.

Re:Political stunt (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072473)

No, he doesn't answer to the president. That doesn't mean the president can't influence him.

Re:Political stunt (1)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072829)

It probably is just some PR stunt. But it indicates they actually do read them and consider them. Let's not cast them a stone since they are listening this time :)

Re:Political stunt (0)

detritus. (46421) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072567)

Considering that Obama was the top donor recipient [opensecrets.org] from Verizon, is it of any surprise? Yet he can't issue an executive order for this stuff but can to restrict guns or assassinate people because it's somehow within his authority...

Re:Political stunt (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072659)

This would go against Verizon - not for - so not sure what your point is. What executive order is restricting guns right now?

But yes as commander in chief he can call the shots in this factitious "War on Terror" - including using drones.

Flying Pigs (-1, Flamebait)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072149)

Because of the current anti-Obama and anti-Democrat poison in DC right now with the obstructionist Party of No having a hissy fit, don't expect this to take place anywhere except in the courts. The FCC certainly doesn't have the balls to stand up to their Corporate Masters.

I know, I know, "troll", "Flamebait", whatever. But it is none the less true.

Re:Flying Pigs (2)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072223)

Only terrorists and socialists would want unlocked cell phones

Re:Flying Pigs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072733)

Only terrorists and socialists would want unlocked cell phones

And neck beards. Let's not forget the neck beards.

Actually, the tinkerers, the hobbyists, the security crowd (black hats and white hats), the Linux world, and other small segments of the population want (and sometimes need) to "unlock" a phone (however the powers-that-be define it). What's next, you can't remove/replace/downgrade the OS on your Windows 8 computer?

Re:Flying Pigs (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072819)

You could also say that it's easy to say "Yes" but haven of intention of making this a priority, which is indistinguishable from saying "No".

Talk is cheap.

Link to the response (5, Informative)

entropiccanuck (854472) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072197)

Would be nice to have in the summary [whitehouse.gov] .

Re:Link to the response (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072595)

Karma whore.

Confused (4, Insightful)

karmawhore (122760) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072205)

ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.

Since when do we have that?

Re:Confused (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072273)

chicken butts

Re:Confused (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072357)

Yeah, I love that "continue to have" part too...can't tell if the WH is being sarcastic or the telco money [opensecrets.org] actually convinced them so.

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072209)

I'll be sure to treat this with the same gravity as the Death Star petition response.

not enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072275)

What about being able to install the software of my own choosing, from the store of my own choice?

The Real News (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072293)

The real news item here is that a We The People petition actually garnered a thought-out response, instead of a boilerplate restating of current policy.

First time for everything...

Re:The Real News (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072395)

The only reason this policy is getting attention is that nobody important (read: major corporations) stands to lose much by changing the policy. It's not an important issue, when compared to drug reform, single payer health care, drone strikes, or jailing bankers. It's just a shiny bauble Obama can use to misdirect us away from these important issues.

Re:The Real News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072667)

The only reason this policy is getting attention is that nobody important (read: major corporations) stands to lose much by changing the policy.

You mean if a lot of people unlock their phones and move to another carrier, their current providers won't lose much?

Re:The Real News (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073053)

That would be correct.

Say 2000 people move from carrier A to carrier B. Another 2000 will move from carrier B to carrier A. Because y'know... they're the exact same fucking thing anyway. That's kinda how oligopolies work. Welcome to the last decade or so, you've missed a lot.

Re:The Real News (0)

1s44c (552956) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072785)

Uou are going to get dictated to on the important matters, but isn't it nice that your dictator gives you a shiny bauble?

He could just shoot you for being a trouble maker.

Re:The Real News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072399)

Responses are a dime a dozen. Actions speak louder than words.

Re:The Real News (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072407)

The real news item here is that a We The People petition actually garnered a thought-out response, instead of a boilerplate restating of current policy.

First time for everything...

True, but the cynic in me says they only made effort for this one because politically it's one of the lighter-weight ones, so now they can ignore the really important ones while still giving off this impression that this We The People Thing is worth having.

Re:The Real News (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072425)

Nah, some of the responses are well thought-out. Generally, these are ones that respond to actual issues, instead of, for example, "LET SECEDE FROM THE UNION" or "HAVE BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA RESIGN." And yes, they get a lot of these. Pissed off hicks with access to computers are, surprisingly, a nontrivial demographic.

Re:The Real News (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072905)

Nah, some of the responses are well thought-out. Generally, these are ones that respond to actual issues, instead of, for example, "LET SECEDE FROM THE UNION" or "HAVE BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA RESIGN." And yes, they get a lot of these. Pissed off hicks with access to computers are, surprisingly, a nontrivial demographic.

Isn't it interesting how quickly these "majority rules" types change their opinions the second the majority in question is one they don't agree with?

And yes, I mean that as a 2-way dig.

Re:The Real News (0)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072493)

That's one more than we got out of the last two presidents combined. (I won't go further back, since the internet didn't exist in any meaningful way for the public before 1992).

Re:The Real News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072735)

I won't go further back, since the internet didn't exist in any meaningful way for the public before 1992

Not coincidentally, that was when Al Gore became Vice President.

Re:The Real News (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072925)

I dunno, man... I think I almost prefer Bush's 'not-even-pretending-he's-listening' approach.

No false sense of hope.

Re:The Real News (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072497)

In reading the response, my takeaway was
1) The Obama Administration agrees with the ideas in the petition.
and
2) This is the fault of the Librarian of Congress who can legally make this call.

This is followed by some vague talk of how they "support a range of approaches to addressing this issue" and how other agencies (FCC, Congress, mobile providers) should consider doing something about it.
Oh yeah, I'm just holding my breath to see the action commence!

Re:The Real News (1)

the_saint1138 (1353335) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072507)

Exactly, this is a step in the right direction, and I'm glad to see something coming of the We The People petitions.

However, the skeptic in me is worried that the administration is just throwing us a bone, and the next 1000 petitions will go ignored.

Re:The Real News (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072671)

To be fair, a lot of successful petitions also lack what could be called "well thought out" qualities. A lot of really successful petitions are asking the president to do unconstitutional things, or override a decision made by congress, or, terrifying to me, I've seen numerous instances of people asking the president to interfere with criminal proceedings.

Not to mention the outright jokes that the site is used for. We use one of the constitutionally protected tools for fixing our government to ask them to build a death star.

Also, I've seen several cases where simple oversight was handled well through a petition, like the use of apes as chemical weapons test subjects on bases(for learning treatment and protection, not increasing the deadliness of weapons, it's not quite as barbaric as it sounds). My overall opinion was that this site was one of Obama's better ideas when he was running for office.

Re:The Real News (2, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072881)

To be fair, a lot of successful petitions also lack what could be called "well thought out" qualities.

To be truly fair, you'd have to go read all the petitions that received answers; a large number of them, including every single one about marijuana legalization, received the standard, boilerplate B.S. response, regardless of how "well thought out" they may have been. I tend to agree with other posters, who point out that this is likely an attempt by the Obama Administration to trick the public into thinking that they take our grievances seriously.

Not to mention the outright jokes that the site is used for. We use one of the constitutionally protected tools for fixing our government to ask them to build a death star.

The lack of proper response to serious petitions came long before the whole 'build a death star' thing, you know. One follows the other, not the other way around.

Also, I've seen several cases where simple oversight was handled well through a petition, like the use of apes as chemical weapons test subjects on bases(for learning treatment and protection, not increasing the deadliness of weapons, it's not quite as barbaric as it sounds).

Ah, I see, so they respond to issues the general public generally doesn't give a rat's ass about, whilst ignoring the petitions that affect and are followed by the public at large. Good plan.

My overall opinion was that this site was one of Obama's better ideas when he was running for office.

Well, sure it was! It's never a bad idea to make the peasants think they actually have a say in how the government is run, they're far less likely to realize the gravity of the true situation and revolt that way!

Re:The Real News (1)

1s44c (552956) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072757)

The real news item here is that a We The People petition actually garnered a thought-out response, instead of a boilerplate restating of current policy.

Exactly. There is some hope that the white house actually listens, and just maybe actually cares.

Re:The Real News (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072769)

It's a start. With 100K+ signatures, it might even turn some representatives' and senators' heads.

And that's the point of the system. It hasn't fulfilled its ultimate purpose yet, but it's headed there. We'll see how far this gets in 4 years, and if anything significant and meaningful comes out of it.

Re:The Real News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073071)

No it's not.

It's pick-and-choose politics. I guarantee that 500,000 signatures for something the Administration disagrees with will not be given a second thought.

A Good Start... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072297)

Now to see if the people of the United States can get it by the American Taliban people who keep trying to screw this nation over.
I am hopeful but far from confident.

Re:A Good Start... (1)

1s44c (552956) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072849)

Now to see if the people of the United States can get it by the American Taliban people who keep trying to screw this nation over.
I am hopeful but far from confident.

Serious question - what group are you actually talking about?

Is this the website's first "yes"? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072323)

[nt]

A win for common sense (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072351)

I guess we can recall the death star from over Washington DC.

Don't get too excited (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072373)

Don't get too excited. Even after (and if) the decision making authority on the issue is moved to the FCC, the FCC rules process is intentionally slow and deliberative. It will take quite some time before any changes will occur.

So why not ban vendor locking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072375)

If they're serious about this, it would be the logical consequence.

Re:So why not ban vendor locking? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072631)

The ideal thing is to let vendors sell us whatever they choose but let us modify/unlock/break them however we wish. This allows for the most freedom on both sides.

CDMA Carriers (5, Insightful)

ZildjianKX (872002) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072421)

"...you should be able to use it on another network". Outside the scope of unlocking, but why are CDMA carriers allowed to block activating phones on their network that they didn't sell to you? This seems worse than cell phone locking. Both Verizon and Virgin Mobile both told me I couldn't use an iPhone 4S (CDMA/GSM phone) on their network unless they sold it to me.

Re:CDMA Carriers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072487)

> Both Verizon and Virgin Mobile both told me I couldn't use an iPhone 4S (CDMA/GSM phone) on their network unless they sold it to me.

Sounds like you should vote with your wallet :)

The ban needs revoking, but not for why most think (5, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072441)

In fact, the very reason that they gave for why it was felt acceptable to have a ban on cell phone unlocking (the alleged wide availability of unlocked cell phones as alternatives for consumers) is the very reason that it should *NOT* be illegal for consumers to unlock cell phones.

Because by creating laws which protect locked cell phones from being tampered with by consumers, the system ends up creating an incentive (however slight) for cell phone providers to actually distribute locked cell phones, usually in place of unlocked ones, so that the distributors can enjoy whatever additional benefits that the legal protection actually offers. It's the same problem as with outlawing the breaking of encryption on copyrighted works... the lawmakers end up supporting a particular business model or technology that may not actually reflect what consumers really want. And because providers of such devices have been given some additional incentive to distribute such locked devices, the availability of unlocked devices will gradually start to decrease over time, ultimately leaving a consumer with little to no choice but to either purchase a locked technology, or else ultimately simply not be be part of the modern culture that regularly uses such technologies at all.

It might not be immediately obvious, but it's certainly not rocket science either. I only wish more people could see it.

So now what? (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072457)

So now that Obama has come out in favor of this, what reasoning will the Republicans use to oppose it? Will they appeal to their libertarian ideals that telcos should be able to do whatever the fuck they want to their consumers?

Re:So now what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072675)

Reasoning? They can reason?

Insufficient (5, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072481)

FTFR: "neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation."

Emphasis mine. It doesn't matter what service agreement you have, it should not be illegal to unlock the phone. If you have an agreement (aka a contract), then the contract language states what you may do with your device to remain within the bounds of the contract, and if you choose to violate that agreement what the injured party is allowed to recover as a result of your default. It's basic contract law - and it's straight forward. The carriers don't really give a rat's ass what you do with your subsidized phone, as long as you fulfill your 24 months of minimum service. If you buy your device, unlock it, and go buy service with another company they really don't care - just as long as your check clears every month for the next two years. Hell, I'll bet AT&T would sell unlocked iPhones for $2000 with no commitment at all ($200+$75/mo for 24 months) if they though they could sell enough of them.

Point is - this should not be a criminal statute. It's contract law; civil stuff - plain and simple.

Re:Insufficient (1)

babywhiz (781786) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072543)

Thank you. I have been reading reactions across all different sites, and it seems that every single person cheering totally bypassed reading and comprehending this part.

If I had points to give, I would.

Read closely people. It doesn't say what you think it says....

Re:Insufficient (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072957)

It's actually close. It wouldn't be the end of the world to get a partial victory. I'm not sure it it's the nuances they don't understand* or this is big telco making sure to keep their thumb on top of subscribers, but it's better than the alternative. I'd like to see this as the first crack in the DMCA dam.

*The people who work at the top of the administration are not, in any way, intellectual midgets - they either know what they've written or they simply haven't put much thought into it. I'm betting on the former.

What about pre-paid? (2)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072725)

Service providers would like to be able to sell subsidised phones for use with pre-paid plans, knowing that the subsidy will not be lost because the phone is used on a competitor's service.

buy it on installment plan (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year and a half ago | (#43073055)

Rather than subsidizing the phone for pre-paid plans, just sell them on instalment plans. That way the end-user pays the full price of the phone no matter what, and also gets the benefit of not paying extra money to the carrier after the phone is paid off.

Re:Insufficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072867)

They could sell plenty of phones at 2k, (or more realistically 1k). The reason they don't is not that there is no demand for that price model, but rather how the mere mention of that price model would affect sales at the traditional price model. E.G.

"Let's see, I can get an iPhone for $200 +75 a month, or $1k..... hmm... wait why are those prices so different? Oh I see, they're not different, damn this phone is expensive."

my reaction as well (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year and a half ago | (#43073073)

The locking of the phone is completely orthogonal to whether or not you still owe the carrier.

There should be no reason why I can't use the same phone with another carrier as long as I'm still paying the original carrier for the phone subsidy.

A Special Award (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072525)

The term "federal regulatory decision" suggests that somebody made the decision to do criminalize activity.
If anybody knows who that person(s) was, please let us know their name(s).
This kind of decision requires a special award, and I'd like to give it to them at the next election.

Conspiracy.. (2)

greywire (78262) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072561)

Its an evil Obama plot to take away our cell phones.. no, I mean, its an Obamanation conspiracy to give away cell phones to lazy welfare bums.. ah.. no.. it must be a liberal democrat plan to make Obama the first dictator of America by screwing the kind hearted telecom companies and making us all love him with our free unlocked cell phones and thus we'll abolish the 2 term limit and all become muslims and be overly healthy with our free health care and and and..

—> IF YOU PAID <— (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072597)

If you signed up for a "free" contract phone enjoy your leash. You are propping up the bundle model and making cell service suck.

Thanks.

"Urge"???!?! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072621)

The White House would order the lifting, not urge it.

Part of the legal shenanigans that lets Congress devolve its legislative authority to regulatory agencies (words out the mouth of regulators specify actions that place you in jail rather than Congress) means it falls under the executive branch enforcement, i.e. the regulaltions-qua-enforcement are words out the mouth of the president.

Re:"Urge"???!?! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072641)

In other words, legally and constitutionally, the president is clownishly urging himself to change it.

Re:"Urge"???!?! (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072713)

The President can order it to not be enforced but he couldn't tell the Librarian to change his rules. Different branch.

the real fear should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072623)

that if the White House agrees with the people about something you'll find another thing in the background that they'll be able to use against the people.

perhaps unlocked phones can be thought of as an indicator that someone is a possible terrorist. Certainly, current entertainment is full of examples of what are called burn phones. I'm in Canada and after hearing about the abuses by DHS at the border there is no way I would carry any of my own electronics through the border now. For a long trip I'd buy or rent what I needed in the States and leave it there when the trip is done. If it's confiscated, the government and the rental company can argue over it and I can go home.

Kinda sorta (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072643)

What they actually did was say they would support allowing you to unlock your phone only after it was paid for / off of contract. That is not at all the same thing as saying they are supporting a ban on cell phone locking and the story submission is misleading at best.

Your two year old cell phone could be unlocked and transferred to another carrier under their proposal, not your current cell phone that your actually using (if your the average smart phone user). For most people that have a modern cell phone the White House initiative is nothing more than feel good words in the air.

Re:Kinda sorta (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072761)

It means if you buy a cell phone without a contract, however, you can unlock it. Contracts are still bound by contract law. This wouldn't change that. If you want to save a ton of money by tethering yourself to a particular vendor then that is your choice.

I don't think this is a reversal. (5, Interesting)

waspleg (316038) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072665)

Read what they say. It pretty much says implicitly that if you've got a contract, fuck you, otherwise "yes we believe". That covers the telecom bases. Wanna get your "free" upgrade as part of your contract and sell it to someone on CL for $200 off MSRP? Still under contract? Then Fuck You.

Wanna switch your phone midstream?

"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"

What does that mean? That means AT THE END OF THE CONTRACT otherwise FUCK YOU.

This is way less liberal than people seem to be interpreting it. They've also let the FCC in and other red tape that will ensure this moves at a typical snails pace. Read between the lines, read what it doesn't spell out.

Is it better than nothing? Yes. Is it a full retraction and concession to public pressure? Fuck no.

PS, I read this on Hacker News hours ago.

What about preinstalled Windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43072863)

Computers should be sold without the operating system installed allowing everybody buy/download the system of their choice.
"It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs."

you don't own your phone until your contract ends (3, Interesting)

genericmk (2767843) | about a year and a half ago | (#43072919)

I think what's going to come out of it is that the contracts with carriers will be re-written. When you "buy" your smartphone at a discounted price from a carrier by all means they should own the carrier lock as it protects their "investment" into subsidizing the handset in hopes of making it back with profit (albeit disproportionately large profit) on your contract. Until your contract period is in place, I don't see why it should be allowed for you switch carriers? I suppose the gray area is oversea travel where the carrier lock forces you into paying an exuberant amount for calls. But then, they technically till own your handset so you may as well just get a prepaid phone locally and keep your smartphone as a computer with wifi access only.
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