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House passes cell phone 'unlocking' bill

Mobile Phone Shop

(Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would give mobile-phone users the right to "unlock" their devices and use them on competitors' wireless networks, although Senate action was uncertain.

The House approved the bill easily, by a 295-114 vote, although some Democrats had pushed back against what they said was a last-minute Republican maneuver to change the legislation.

It is not known whether the Senate will consider the bill.

U.S. wireless carriers often tether, or "lock," smartphones to their networks to encourage consumers to renew their mobile contracts. Consumers, for their part, can often buy new devices at a heavily subsidized price in return for committing to long-term contracts with a single carrier.

Major carriers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US and U.S. Cellular, in December made a voluntary pledge to make it easier for consumers to unlock their cellphones, under pressure from consumer groups and the Federal Communications Commission.

Under current law, those unlocking their phones without permission could face legal ramifications, including jail.

The notion of undoing that law has had wide support from Republicans and Democrats since the bill's introduction in the House in 2013.

But the bill's author, Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, added language after the bill had been approved by a partisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee, banning "bulk unlocking."

Consumer advocates have argued that customers should be allowed to sell their old devices to third parties that could unlock phones in bulk, something the wireless industry opposes.

Four Democrats, led by California Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, wrote to their colleagues on Tuesday to protest the bulk unlocking exclusion.

The new provision "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," the Democrats said.

A consumer rights group, Public Knowledge, last week suspended its support of the bill.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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ssrapp February 26 2014 at 12:11 PM

julia....why dont you go make some more money ............dont bother us......we dont care

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BOB February 26 2014 at 11:45 AM

Some of you pay over $100.00 plus taxes and then get tied down to a contract.
I have a pay as you go phone for $45.00 plus taxes and U have unlimited E mail,videos,voice mail,pictures,text and the video is only 3 minutes but I can fire that off and while it's uploading I can take several more.
As far as all those APPS,i'm really not into that.
BOB

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PamieJune February 26 2014 at 11:51 AM

Are you talking Straight Talk? It's unlimited everything - talk, text, and data. I can make calls, text, access the web, get apps, check email, anything, for as long as I want anytime I want for $47.75 a month (that's including taxes). They use Verizon's service area so it's really good.

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PamieJune February 26 2014 at 11:52 AM

Oh, yeah, and no contract.

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wlr523 February 26 2014 at 11:44 AM

obama & his CHI-TOWN thugs have done enough damage

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JOSEPH February 26 2014 at 11:26 AM

Maybe our esteemed Senators got paid off by the Cell Phone Industry Lobbyists and they will not pass this bill.

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1 reply to JOSEPH's comment
wlr523 February 26 2014 at 11:47 AM

if the california dem's want it ,it must be bad

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gudtip February 26 2014 at 11:21 AM

if the phone is given by your service at no charge so they can get you as a customer then you should not be allowed to use the compettitor service, but if you pay for the phone, it is your and you should have the right to do anything you want with it and use the service that is best for you.

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2 replies to gudtip's comment
JOSEPH February 26 2014 at 11:27 AM

What about after your contract period is up?

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M February 27 2014 at 3:18 AM

Guess what... If you ty to terminate a contract early, part of the fees charged to leave early is the payment for the remainder of the phone cost that is built into the contract's monthly payment rate. You ARE paying for the phone, but the payments are made over the length of the contract.

So, the phone is NOT *given to you*, the company just spreads the payments over the length of the contract, and gets you to THINK it is *given to you*.

What a marketing gimmick.

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heardacoustics February 26 2014 at 10:51 AM

If the carriers can't sell you a locked phone, the cost of purchasing a new phone will go from $0-$100, which is where it is now up to $600-$1000. Unlocked phones should be available for purchase, but why can't the carriers continue to discount locked phones as well?

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Sue February 26 2014 at 10:47 AM

I think they shuold do that with the Ipad as well. I dislike my carrier and their methods. I would love to change carriers but i am stuck right now. How is they get such assistance from the law to keep their customers against their will??

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1 reply to Sue's comment
JOSEPH February 26 2014 at 11:28 AM

It's called Elected Officials being paid off by the Cell Phone Company Lobbyists.

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Wes February 26 2014 at 10:43 AM

It is ALWAYS about Money and Control!

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adie February 26 2014 at 10:24 AM

I want to unlock my phone because I want to use it while I am studying abroad,my whole family is on a contract but I can't get permission from the carrier to inlock it, my phone, my payments .......go figure I hope this bill goes through

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1 reply to adie's comment
JOSEPH February 26 2014 at 11:29 AM

There are places that will unlock it. My friend had his AT&T phone unlocked and now uses it on Metro PCS.

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iamsmooth48 February 26 2014 at 10:21 AM

There are a lot of others out there with plans and unlocked phones already...no contract Of course if you use your phone as a computer, your going to play dearly for service. Try basic talk or pure talk. Your save a ton.

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