An online petition to make unlocking cell phones legal once more received more than 100,000 signatures. That means the White House will have to respond to the petition.
The petition reached the 100,000 signature threshold a few days before it was due to end on February 23, so anyone interested in making phone unlocking legal again can still sign the online petition. The petition asks the White House to convince the Librarian of Congress, the public official who was given the power to make this decision, to reverse making it illegal to unlock cell phone while under a two-year contract.
The ban on unlocking cell phones went into effect on January 26. While the move didn’t impact many Americans, it most effects those who travel abroad. When traveling, users with an unlocked phone can insert a SIM card from a local carrier for less expensive phone plans.
Users with a locked phone currently have to pay their U.S. carrier extra for the privilege of using their phones overseas. International plans are much more expensive than national data plans. AT&T, for example, charges its users $30 per month for just 130MB of data while abroad. Verizon charges $25 per device for 100MB of data abroad.
Many users would prefer to use their own phone while traveling instead of buying a separate phone, however.
For some users that isn’t an issue as their phones are already unlocked. The Verizon iPhone 5, for example, is unlocked so users can insert any SIM into the device to make it work on another carrier.
There is no estimated timetable for a White House response, so even after the petition ends it could be a long time before the White House responds to the issue. There is also a chance the White House will choose not to ask the Librarian of Congress to reverse the decision.
Even if the White House does talk to the Librarian of Congress, there’s no guarantee the decision will change. There are certainly many people who oppose the current ban, but that doesn’t mean it will lift.