Let us unlock our phones
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 17:01
On Saturday, Jan. 26, it became official: It is now illegal to unlock your smartphone.
Unlocking a smartphone frees it from the current carrier’s network, and enables it to communicate with other networks.
This law oversteps governmental boundaries and doesn’t do much else but generate fear. The maximum fine for first-time offenders is $500,000 and/or up to five years in prison. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to $1 million and/or up to 10 years in prison.
To this, we must say, “wha-huh?”
It’s important to know unlocking a smartphone and rooting one are two different things. Before you give Techy-Tom flak for rooting his phone, be advised he’s still technically not breaking the law.
Rooting — also known as jailbreaking — a phone grants the owner administrative access on a device he or she paid for. Honestly, everyone should have administrative rights over their property.
When a phone is rooted, the owner has the ability to clean out all the bloatware cellular providers load onto it, which generally increases the phone’s response time. It also allows the owner to install advertisement blocking in apps, and install other applications that may have not been previously available. There are other, more technical applications a rooted phone can do. Unless you’re familiar with what you’re doing, however, it’s probably best to steer clear of overclocking (which increases the power that runs through the CPU to speed up the device) or tethering (which basically turns your phone into a router).
Though rooting a smartphone is technical work, unlocking it is an advanced step only the most comfortable and knowledgeable should perform.
This law now locks customers in with a specific carrier. It could also hinder providers marketing specifically to those with unlocked phones looking to switch. It’s unclear how this will affect T-Mobile’s “bring in your own phone” campaign.
Other than catching and penalizing the masterminds who dissect a phone’s software in order to unlock it and release the code and instructions for the rest of us, this law probably won’t affect many average users.
Hacking and piracy has rampantly increased as our understanding of different technologies advances. It’s no wonder why the “victims” — like media, entertainment and government agencies — would make a fuss and demand government action. This law, however, doesn’t make sense.
There are places that sell unlocked phones. Paying full price, as opposed to the discount prices packaged with a contract, you can legally purchase an unlocked phone. Some carriers, like AT&T, will unlock a phone once the contract expires.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if you want to legally unlock your phone you must first ask for permission from your carrier. Frankly, this is bologna. It’s like asking your mom for permission to stay up late after you’ve moved out.
Once we’ve purchased something, it is ours. Cell phones are no exception. We should have the freedom to do whatever floats our boat, because it’s our property. If we want to drop it off a building just to see how it shatters, that’s our prerogative. If we want to root or unlock our phone, that too, is our prerogative.
If you decide to root your phone, make sure you do your research. Don’t blame us if you brick it.
We don’t advise you break this law. If you do, though, we won’t be the ones to rat you out.
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