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Let freedom RING! Americans can now legally liberate phones from axis of network evil


It's phone Independence Day as American mobe owners can now legally unlock their smartphones again from their network carriers – provided you've finished paying for them.

Phone unlocking, allowing it to subscribe to a different network, was perfectly legal in the US until 2012, when the practice was banned in a review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by the Librarian of Congress. The surprise shift outlawed the legal practice and set the internet aflutter.

An online petition to the White House garnered at least 100,000 signatures. President Obama urged Congress to act on the matter, saying his hands were tied.

18 months later the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was passed and signed by the President, but by that time the telcos had already agreed to unlocking privately.

From today all phones, as well as tablets, can be instructed to subscribe to any network, provided the device is compatible with the telco's cell towers.

Verizon and Sprint are CDMA only, so you'll need a CDMA-friendly gadget to use them; likewise, if it's a GSM phone or slab, you'll be OK to sail on GSM networks such as T-Mobile US and AT&T. If you've got, say, an iPhone that supports GSM and CDMA, you're OK across the board.

Under the new rules, telcos have to notify phone owners when their handsets are eligible for unlocking and respond to requests for how to do it within two working days.

That's not to say you couldn’t have unlocked your handset before today if you were willing to go to the dark side. A walk around San Francisco, where Vulture West is based, will show there are any number of shops offering the service for a small fee.

But the new rules are important because they allow resellers to unlock handsets before sales, meaning customers will get more handsets to choose from and – hopefully – some cheaper deals as well. ®

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