A bill passed by Congress and waiting to be signed by President Obama represents a big win for consumers, who have long sought ability to "unlock" cellphones – allowing them to be used on any carrier's plan. But it does not mark the end of the battle and could be only a temporary victory.
The issue may seem obvious on its face: If consumers buy phones, why should a telecom giant be able to tell them how to use it? But the Library of Congress backed the patent office in 2012, saying that most unlocking amounted to illegal tampering according to US copyright law.
The bipartisan bill that passed the Senate on June 15 and the House on Friday reverses the United States Copyright Office decision. Mr. Obama said Friday he would sign the bill, called the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.
"The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget," Obama said in a statement Friday.