Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation with Chairman Patrick Leahy and others to restore the ability of consumers to more easily transfer their cell phone service to other wireless carriers.
"As we become a more mobile society, we're choosing smart phones and other wireless devices as our prime mode of communication. It's the right thing to empower people with the freedom to use the carrier of their choice after complying with their original terms of service," Grassley said.
The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would repeal the Library of Congress's October 2012 rule that ended the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's exemption for cell phone unlocking and reinstate the Copyright Office rule as it previously existed for the last six years. That rule created a Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemption for users that unlock their cellphone after their contract terms of service expired. The bill would also direct the Library of Congress, within one year, to undertake a new rulemaking proceeding to consider extending the exemption to other wireless devices.
The legislation helps address the issue of whether cellphone buyers, who often receive new devices at a reduced cost in exchange for committing to a long-term contract, should be able to switch the devices to new wireless carriers once the contract terms of service is completed. Portability of devices would allow for more price competition and consumer choice.
Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Al Franken of Minn. and Mike Lee of Utah cosponsored the legislation. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers are expected to introduce similar legislation this week.