A year ago a ruling went into effect by the Librarian of Congress that made it a crime to unlock your cellphone (changing the settings on the phone to be able to be used on a different phone carrier). When that ruling went into effect, there was public outcry across the technology community that such a basic technology was now illegal to use. Thousands of Americans became potential criminals for exerting their basic property rights by plugging their phones into their computers and running a simple computer program. The resale market for phones began to dry up and websites allowing unlocking shut down to avoid liability or stopped servicing US phones.
It was a clear case of crony capitalism on behalf of some of the largest companies with the largest lobbying shops in Washington, D.C. (Though it should be noted that over 100 wireless carriers, including T-Mobile and Sprint, were always against the ruling). Many big companies use their lobbying might to go after their competitors – that’s not particularly uncommon – but the phone companies are perhaps unique in also going directly after their own consumers. The resulting public outcry, perhaps the largest online response since SOPA/PIPA, led the White House, FCC and Members of Congress to condemn the ruling by the Librarian of Congress and to support cellphone unlocking. One year later, despite an overwhelming consensus in favor of unlocking, unlocking your phone, without permission from your carrier, is still a crime. It’s difficult to find another issue that has such overwhelming and bipartisan support, and it’s difficult to understand why Congress still refuses to act... Read more.