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S. 517 (113th): Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act

The bill would allow consumers to use their mobile devices with any wireless carrier. It also expands the right to unlock devices from mobile phones to all wireless devices. Unlocking mobile devices would allow consumers to choose their wireless service provider and would prevent wireless providers from restricting mobile phones to operating only on certain networks.

In 2013, after a petition on We the People (a website that allows individuals to petition the White House for a response if a petition reaches 100,000 signatures) advocated for consumers to be able to take their phones with them when switching wireless carriers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a ruling asserting the right of consumers to unlock their devices.

The bill directs the Library of Congress to repeal current federal regulations and reestablish the right to unlock wireless devices by the owner of a wireless device or at the direction of the owner. The act expands the coverage of this right from “wireless telephone handsets” to include any other category of wireless devices.

Last updated Aug 28, 2014. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.


8/1/2014--Public Law. (This measure has not been amended since it was reported to the Senate on July 10, 2014. The summary of that version is repeated here.)

Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act - Repeals a Library of Congress (LOC) rulemaking determination, made upon the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, regarding the circumvention of technological measures controlling access to copyrighted software on wireless telephone handsets (mobile telephones) for the purpose of connecting to different wireless telecommunications networks (a practice commonly referred to as "unlocking" such devices). Reestablishes, as an exemption to provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prohibiting such circumvention, a previous LOC rule permitting the use of computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is initiated by the owner of the copy of such computer program solely to connect to such a network and access to the network is authorized by the network operator, thus permitting unlocked phones.

Directs the Librarian of Congress, upon the recommendation of the Register, to determine whether to extend such exemption to include any other category of wireless devices in addition to wireless telephone handsets (e.g., tablets and other mobile broadband-enabled devices).

Allows such circumvention (unlocking) to be initiated by the owner of such a device, by another person at the direction of the owner, or by a provider of a commercial mobile radio service or a commercial mobile data service at the direction of such owner or other person, solely in order to enable such owner or a family member of such owner to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when such connection is authorized by the operator of such network.

Prohibits this Act from being construed to alter any party's rights under existing law.