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Senate bill passes bringing regulated post-contract cell phone “unlocking” closer to reality

Google Nexus 5

Android users could soon finally be able to easily use any supported carrier at the end of their service contract without having to jump through hoops or use other means to unlock the device. That is if a proposed bill currently processing through Congress passes and becomes law.

The Hill reports that the mentioned bill, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, cleared through the Senate after a vote on Tuesday through a ‘unanimous consent agreement’ and will next move to the House for a vote before potentially becoming law after first being introduced last year.

If the bill does indeed become law, consumers will easily be able to take an Android phone purchased through one carrier on contract and have the option to unlock the device and use it on another carrier after the contract expires.

Current rules and processes for unlocking devices vary from carrier to carrier and even contract to contract in certain instances, and as it stands now, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits legally unlocking a carrier-restricted device.

The Hill’s report notes Senator Patrick Leahy’s previous statements on the current policy explaining why he introduced the legislation:

“This straightforward restoring bill is about promoting consumer rights,” Leahy said when the bill was introduced last year. “When consumers finish the terms of their contract, they should be able to keep their phones and make their own decision about which wireless provider to use.”

Unlocked devices can be purchased outright avoid the restrictions of contracts and carrier-locked devices, but in the case of many popular smartphones, the cost increases considerably when you give up the carrier subsidy.

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