Feeds

Senate heavyweights forge bipartisan accord on phone unlocking

The right and left agree: It's just 'common sense'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Two US senators – the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee – have announced a rare bit of bipartisanism in the fractious US government: they've agreed on a bill to allow consumers to unlock their smartphones once their carrier contracts expire.

Democrat Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Republican Chuck Grassley (R-IA) don't agree on many things. Leahy, for example, has said that "no one should suffer from discrimination based on who they love," while Grassley says "I have always supported a definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman." Taxes, Obamacare, climate change, you name it, they likely disagree – but they have found common ground on smartphone unlocking.

Leahy writes that he, Grassley, and others are working to "enact common sense legislation that puts consumers first by allowing them to 'unlock' their cell phones." For his part, Grassley's common sense tells him that "Empowering people with the freedom to use the carrier of their choice after complying with their original terms of service is the right thing to do."

The bill that will be taken up at this Thursday's Executive Business Meeting of the Judiciary Committee – S.517, the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act" – would restore the phone-unlocking exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that was approved in 2010 but reversed in 2012.

A House bill weaker than S.517, H.R.1123, the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act", was introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-FL) and passed this February. That bill, however, was quickly excoriated by some as having been neutered by special interests, and more industry-friendly than the consumer-friendly H.R.1982, which had been introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) in May 2013.

When announcing that S.517 would be brought up at this Thursday's meeting, Leahy said that he had "worked for months" with Goodlatte and others to hammer out the bipartisan compromise – a hint that if S.517 passes the Senate, the two bills will be merged in conference committee in such a way as to not only lean more towards the rights of consumers, but also to make it clear to the Librarian of Congress – who grants exemptions to the DCMA – that Congress is serious about allowing smartphone unlocking.

After all, as Leahy and Grassley have proven, that's a bit of common sense about which both those on the right and the left can agree. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Will.i.am gets CUFFED as he announces his new wristjob, the PULS
It's got four KILOWATTS of something, apparently
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.