This has been a long time time and it has finally happened. The Senate today passed a bill which legalizes phone unlocking, the decision would have been aided by a favorable House vote this spring on a companion bill. Formally called The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act tabled by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) brings back the rule which allows customers to unlock their mobile phones so that they can be used on any other network.

Even though a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act lapsed which allowed unlocking lapsed last year carriers in the country had agreed to adopt clearing unlocking policies in the absence of a concrete law. President Barack Obama had already come out in support of this policy.

This bill is actually quite similar to the one passed by the House back in February. Leahy says that he will coordinate with the author of that bill, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), to make sure that the Senate’s version is approved quickly and signed by President Obama.

The phone unlocking bill doesn’t permanently legalize phone unlocking but the Library of Congress now has to put an exemption in place and decide whether to extend it or not when the bill is due to renewal. The rule itself has been modified slightly.

It removes the ban on bulk unlocking, allows users to unlock a phone themselves or use a third party such as technician or a company to do it for them. Since unlocking requires a bit of technical knowledge this modification will no doubt be appreciated by consumer groups.

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