In a rare display of bipartisan progress President Obama and Congress have come together to break the stranglehold wireless carriers have on locked devices.
The House passed the legislation and the Senate approved the measure that reverses a Library of Congress decision that made it illegal for cell phone users to unlock their devices to be used on other networks.
"The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget" -President Obama
The changing of settings on a mobile device so it can be used on a different wireless network had been deemed a copyright infringement the Library of Congress in 2012. In layman's terms, until Congress approved this legislation and the President signs off on the bill, it is illegal to unlock a cell phone. Doing so could bring legal ramifications, including jail.
The White House responded favorably to a petition signed by 114,000 people on its website in 2013.
Lawmakers led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and his House counterpart Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) were key in expediting the measure. Their bill went through several hurdles with some lawmakers unsuccessfully trying to turn it into a vehicle for broader copyright reform.
The approval of this bill serves as a broader and permanent solution to the voluntary agreement Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler inked with the nation's major wireless carriers in December 2013 that guaranteed companies like AT&T, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc and Verizon would allow users to unlock their phones once their contracts are up.
Cell phone users will be free to take hardware to the carrier of their choice for activation once the President signs the bill.