Thanks, Obama: Now you can legally unlock your smartphone if you want to

The President has signed a bill into law that allows American citizens to legally unlock their phones. That means you can take your mobile device, no matter which carrier subsidized it, and move with it to a competing carrier.

Unlocking phones was made illegal in January of 2013, when an exemption to the DMCA expired. The bi-partisan bill was passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives, after already being approved by the Senate.

There is bit of a catch: the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, as it’s called, is valid only through 2015. For now, it ensures you have a choice in matters of your mobile device, as long as your phone is compatible with another carrier’s network and you’ve complied with your previous contract. And even if you don’t fancy yourself as technologically savvy, the bill allows you to seek outside help.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point. About a year ago, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) filed a petition urging the FCC to make a ruling that would require carriers to unlock phones and tablets at the customer’s request. While most carriers have been kind about unlocking devices, tools for consumers to unlock those phones and tablets themselves were considered illegal.

So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and be free! At least until the next time this exemption expires.

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