New smartphones can be very expensive and consumers need to sign a contract with a wireless or RingCentral VoIP service provider in order for them to get such devices for free or at a tempting discounted price. During the duration of the contract, they would have to pay for the services that they get from the provider, based on the amount that’s reflected in their agreement. The phones that providers issue out are locked to the network so even if the consumer decides to terminate the agreement, he or she can’t use the smartphone he/she acquired from another network provider. Once the contract is completed, the owner of the new smartphone will still have to use the device for that network because it’s locked-in it and can’t be used in another network provider. This is the current practice in the smartphone acquisition market.
New Law, Better Options
This practice may soon become a thing of the past once legislation passes the 289-word bill that will allow smartphone owners to unlock their phones once they have completed their contractual obligations to their phone providers. The bipartisan law is S-517 otherwise known as the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), together with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Lee (R-UT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who are all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced this law last March 11. The law is short but substantial and there’s a very strong chance that both houses will approve it.
DMCA Legal Extension
This law will repeal any interpretation done on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of October 2012 (Section 2a). The DMCA allows exemptions to consumers to unlock their phones with no legal penalties until January 26, 2013. The unlocking process will only be good until this period but this new law that will be approved soon will permit unlocking of smartphones by consumers even beyond this period. Smartphone owners will continuously enjoy the privilege to unlock their phones once they have completed their obligations with the company they signed a contract with.
Complete Contracts Only
The situation is a lot different if the consumer is still in contract with the phone provider. The unlocking of a smartphone by a consumer who is still in an obligation violates the DMCA law and would lead to liability and damages. The only time that unlocking is permitted is when the person has completed his contract and is free to choose his own provider. There were a lot of petitions made on this law and the White House agrees that action should be made to give consumers more freedom of choice particularly in their decision to join one phone provider over the other.
Phone providers were once protected by DMCA’s passages because it prevents consumers from finding a way around copyright protections and device access control. Phone owners are forced to stick to their provider even if they don’t need to, because their devices are locked to be exclusively used under the phone provider’s services.
New Promo, New Contract
Phone providers aren’t alarmed very much with the passage of this new law. The smartphone industry is very vibrant and what’s for sure, the features of the phones upgrade faster than usual. When a customer of theirs is through with their contracts, a new version of a smartphone will then be out in the market. So their customers will sign up with a new agreement in order for them to enjoy the features of the new upgraded smartphone. The phone that they have which has completed its contractual obligations won’t be used anymore because the owner will be using a new phone from the promotion provider.
Henry Conrad is a 29-year-old game developer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Aside from gaming and being a tech junky, he also dabbles in creative writing, which allows him to create great storylines and backgrounds for his characters. . Follow me on Twitter and join me in Google +