Technology

Wireless Industry Backs Cellphone Unlocking Bill

By / Jun 10, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

After pushing the Library of Congress to invalidate a copyright infringement exemption for unlocking cellphones last October, CTIA–The Wireless Association is backing legislation that would legalize the technique.

CTIA–The Wireless Association, which represents the mobile industry, testified before the House Judiciary Committee in support of legislation that would legalize cellphone unlocking, according to The Hill.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,  introduced in March by  Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA),  would protect mobile users who unlock wireless devices from prosecution for violating copyright law.

According to the prepared remarks of CTIA general consul Michael Altschul from the June 5 hearing, the wireless industry trade group believes the “the bill is a reasonable balance that protects consumers and carriers alike,” and will grant “Congress time to contemplate whether broader changes to the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] may be appropriate.”

This appears to be a reversal of CTIA’s earlier position on the issue. The group pushed for the Library of Congress to remove the copyright infringement exemption on cellphone unlocking—which it did in October. Earlier this year The New York Times summarized Altschul on CTIA’s former position: “prohibiting people from unlocking their cellphones helped protect carriers’ investments in the subsidies that they provide for handsets.”

CTIA represents all major cellular carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The association also supports a bill introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) that would criminalize tampering with mobile-device identification numbers.

The Competitive Carriers Association, which represents a number of smaller-scale regional carriers, also spoke in support of the bill at the hearing, with CCA president and CEO Steven K. Berry testifying.

Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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