Earlier this month we told you that lawmakers were working on introducing new legislation to legalize cellphone unlocking following a statement from the White House confirming that it would support “narrow legislative fixes.” The new laws would attempt to reverse a decision was made by the Library of Congress in October to make the act illegal that resulted in a petition from consumers and prompted a response from the White House. We already knew that most of the big carriers including Verizon and AT&T are not in support of unlocking, but today Bloomberg reports smaller, rural carriers are backing new bills in hopes it will attract new iPhone customers:
“Smaller carriers have a very difficult time getting access to smartphones and handsets,” said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents such companies as U.S. Cellular Corp. (USM) and Bluegrass Cellular. “The unlocking is one way the consumer can make the decision that I can try someone else who has better coverage in the area where I live or play.”
While the Senate bills are “excellent first steps,” Congress needs to go further, Carri Bennet, general counsel for Rural Telecommunications Group, a Washington association representing rural carriers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, said in an e-mail.
Many of these smaller regional carriers, including Bluegrass Cellular, typically offer the latest iPhone for a price lower than Apple and the major carriers in order to attract customers. Bloomberg also reports that a number of lawmakers have committed to introducing or supporting bills to legalize unlocking phones:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Charles Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s top Republican, introduced a bill March 11 to overturn the Library of Congress’s decision and direct the agency to consider adding tablet computers to devices that consumers can unlock.
Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have also introduced bills to unlock mobile phones. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, and John Conyers of Michigan, the panel’s top Democrat, have also announced plans to sponsor such legislation.