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Will Mobile VoIP Increase with Legal Unlocking?

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August 05, 2014

Will Mobile VoIP Increase with Legal Unlocking?

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Cell phone unlocking – it was an illegal activity for quite some time as carriers aimed to protect the investments they had made in their proprietary networks and developers wanted to protect copyrighted work. Apparently Washington saw this as unnecessary and a soon-to-be law is now just waiting the signature of President Obama. 

Once passed, the new law would repeal the 2012 decision by the Library of Congress that rendered unlocking a cell phone a violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This Act prohibits U.S. citizens from circumventing technologies put in place to protect copyrighted works and also gives exception granting privileges to the Library of Congress.

The exemptions for cell phone unlocking was granted in both 2006 and 2010, but last year the Library of Congress opted not to renew. Having this kind of control in place does limit the options for consumers as they are tied to the networks providing a mobile phone. If I decide to leave AT&T, I couldn’t take my iPhone (News - Alert) to another network; I simply had to purchase a new phone. That’s great for the profit margins of the networks; terrible for my budget and my right as a consumer who wants choices.

Consumer advocates agreed and launched an online petition that garnered roughly 114,322 signatures and won the approval of the President. The only challenge is that the bill will only make cell phone unlocking legal until the provision is reviewed by the Library of Congress again. Politicians believe the move to allow unlocking provides consumers more choice as they can take their cell phones with them, regardless of the carrier they choose.

This is an important point in the demand for access to mobile VoIP. For years, carriers had the upper hand in what we could and couldn’t do with mobile devices. When Skype (News - Alert) arrived on the market, for instance, carriers were quick to block access on mobile devices, even though they had access to Wi-Fi and broadband data. Now, however, demand has outpaced the carriers’ ability to fight consumer trends and apps to support mobile VoIP are in high demand.

Likewise, consumers are tired of the endless pricing tricks carriers put in place to try and secure their long-term market stance. Consumers want the ability to make calls without commitments and to roam without charges. Mobile VoIP enables both, providing options that were previously out of reach. Given that some carriers aren’t keeping pace with the quality demands of consumers and 4G networks are still lagging, mobile VoIP is becoming even more appealing.

The only question now is how long unlocking will remain an option. Plus, once you unlock a device during the time in which it is legal, what happens when the Library of Congress decides to put the regulation in place once again? It’s an interesting journey that still has no predictable end.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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