US Senators Approve Cellphone Unlocking Legislation

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The US Senate's Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved legislation that would restore the ability of consumers to more easily transfer their cell phones to other wireless carriers.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would reinstate a 2010 rulemaking by the Librarian of Congress so that consumers can transfer, or "unlock," their cell phones without running afoul of copyright laws.

Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley first partnered on the issue last year, and their modified bill approved by the Judiciary Committee puts the focus back on individual consumers.

"Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider. I have worked for months with Ranking Member Grassley, Chairman Goodlatte and House members, consumer advocates and wireless providers to ensure we enact common sense legislation that puts consumers first by allowing them to 'unlock' their cell phones," Leahy said.

The modified bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee directs the Librarian of Congress to consider whether other wireless devices, like tablets, should be eligible for unlocking.

The House passed a similar cellphone unlocking bill in February. Leahy has been coordinating with Goodlatte, his counterpart in the House, to ensure that Congress can pass a commonsense bill this year.

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