Senate Passes Cellphone Unlocking Bill That Lets You Use Your Phone With Another Carrier

The Senate passed a bill through a unanimous consent agreement Tuesday night legalizing cellphone unlocking, allowing consumers to switch carriers with the same phone once a their contract is up.

Bill S. 517, or the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy. The bill provides an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which made it illegal to unlock phones.

However from 2006 to 2012, the Library of Congress made an exemption to the DMCA and let consumers unlock their cell phones. The exemption expired last year in January and cell phone unlocking was illegal again.

A petition on the White House website opposing cell phone locking gained more than 110,000 signatures.

A similar bill passed in the house in February, but the provision to ban “bulk unlocking” was removed to allow for bulk resale, protecting companies that sell prepaid phones.