Earlier this year it became illegal to unlock your smartphone or tablet so that you could use it with any carrier you wanted to.
Unlocking a mobile device requires hacking into it to alter the software.
Anyone unlocking a new cell phone or providing unlocking services after Jan. 26 risks up to five years of jail time for each offence.
But on Tuesday a government agency that works on behalf of the President stepped in to try to change that. It is asking the Federal Communications Commission to make rules that would sidestep the law.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued a formal petition to the FCC asking it to come up with rules that telecom providers would have to follow. It wants telecom carriers to have to give their permission to consumers that want to unlock a device.
It became illegal to unlock a smartphone when the Librarian of Congress issued its latest set of exemptions to the copyright law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Messing with software to unlock a device without the carrier’s permission was no longer an exempt violation of the DMCA copyright law, hence it became illegal.
“This is a pretty significant move: the NTIA petitions to the FCC are relatively rare, happening only once every few years. Not only may this trigger action by the FCC, but it also shows that the administration is committed to making mobile phone unlocking legal and accessible for consumers,” Sina Khanifar, founder of FixtheDMCA.org, and cofounder of OpenSignal.com, told Business Insider in an email.
Khanifar is the guy that originally petitioned the White House to fix the law so that people could continue to legally unlock their cell phones. It garnered over 114,00 signatures and the White House responded saying it agreed with Khanifar.
Now the White House is keeping it’s promise and trying to change the situation.