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Until a few months ago, it was completely legal to unlock a cell phone in the U.S. so it could be used on a different carrier. However, in January, doing so was made illegal by the U.S Library of Congress. But now, because of petitioner pressure, the situation could change again, and it could potentially affect carriers.
For a while now, large mobile carriers such as AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) have been offering cheap phones with contracts, usually lasting for two years. The phone prices are usually subsidized by the company, but there are ways to make up for that. A two-year contract has been enough for AT&T and Verizon to ensure that the money they lost subsidizing the phone prices was earned back through monthly charges to users. The only requirement: making sure the user stayed on the network.
That’s why the Library of Congress rule made it easier for carriers to lock in their customers, and even keep them around after the first contract period expired.
But consumers were quick to react with a direct petition to the White House. The government’s response to the petition was in agreement. It said it believed phone and tablet owners should be able to take their device to whichever carrier they please. While this response may appear as a direct blow to the way of business for AT&T and Verizon, the government’s language was careful, and may not actually signal a full change…
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