On July 25, 2014, the House passed bill S517, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. This legislation was designed to make it legal for consumers to circumvent copy protection mechanisms for cell phone software when changing service providers—a practice known as “unlocking,” which had been illegal under the recommendation of the Library of Congress in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).
The new bill was originally introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy [D-VT] on March 11, 2013, and it has not been amended since its introduction. The House originally passed a version of the bill that included controversial language which would still outlaw unlocking in bulks. After consumer group backlash, however, the Senate passed a version without the controversial language, and the House agreed to approve this version. The new bill essentially aims to increase consumer choice, allowing consumers to unlock their phones freely, as long as their device is fully paid for. Now that President Obama has signed the bill into law, it is now easier for cell phone users to change their phone service provider without having to purchase a new device.
A summary of the history surrounding the bill is available here. The Washington Post discusses the future implications of its passage. PC, Ars Technica, and the National Journal provide additional commentary.