Smartphone Freedom for All: Petitioned

iPhones in Palo Alto, California.

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

iPhones in Palo Alto, California.

They may not be tackling immigration reform.

They may not be untangling the Byzantine federal tax code.

But they are unlocking our cell phones.

Congress, deadlocked for many months over federal spending, taxes and debt, agreed on one thing today: Smartphone owners should be able to unlock their devices — switching wireless carriers after their service contracts expire — with a simple software code.

And President Barack Obama, who hasn’t gotten to sign much legislation lately, is ready to sign this bipartisan bill.

“Last year,” the president said in a statement issued by the White House today, “in response to a `We the People’ petition from consumers across our country, my administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. ”

More than 114,000 people signed this petition.

And big wireless carriers — Verizon and AT&T — said in December that they’d let consumers unlock — after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency would write regulations if the industry didn’t act.

A Senate bill passed the House today without a recorded vote.

“The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice,” Obama said in his statement, “so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. ”

So what if 114,000 people sent in a petition for immigration or tax reform? Just a thought.

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