It is the second day of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and we’re back on the show floor to discover the diamonds in the rough. Noke, the world’s first Bluetooth-enabled padlock, is one of those hidden gems. Noke replaces the nuisances of losing your keys or needing to remember random combinations with convenient unlocking over Bluetooth technology when your iPhone is within close range.
After the decision last year to make unlocking smartphone and tablet devices illegal, the US House of Representatives today voted yes to allow the practice to become legal once again. This is already the second time the government has voted on this issue, as just a few weeks ago the US Senate approved the legislation to move on to the House. The final step in getting the law approved is the President’s signature, which should come with little delay as he has already spoken out in favor of the bill.
Update: Well, would you look at that, just moments after reports of a deal being near comes the news that a deal has actually been reached. The CTIA has posted a PDF document that reveals some of the agreed upon terms of the negotiations. The bottom line is no matter what, this is a major win for consumers and the overall industry even if the carriers are probably steaming over the deal.
Earlier this month we told you that lawmakers were working on introducing new legislation to legalize cellphone unlocking following a statement from the White House confirming that it would support “narrow legislative fixes.” The new laws would attempt to reverse a decision was made by the Library of Congress in October to make the act illegal that resulted in a petition from consumers and prompted a response from the White House. We already knew that most of the big carriers including Verizon and AT&T are not in support of unlocking, but today Bloomberg reports smaller, rural carriers are backing new bills in hopes it will attract new iPhone customers:
“Smaller carriers have a very difficult time getting access to smartphones and handsets,” said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents such companies as U.S. Cellular Corp. (USM) and Bluegrass Cellular. “The unlocking is one way the consumer can make the decision that I can try someone else who has better coverage in the area where I live or play.”
While the Senate bills are “excellent first steps,” Congress needs to go further, Carri Bennet, general counsel for Rural Telecommunications Group, a Washington association representing rural carriers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, said in an e-mail.
Many of these smaller regional carriers, including Bluegrass Cellular, typically offer the latest iPhone for a price lower than Apple and the major carriers in order to attract customers. Bloomberg also reports that a number of lawmakers have committed to introducing or supporting bills to legalize unlocking phones:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Charles Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s top Republican, introduced a bill March 11 to overturn the Library of Congress’s decision and direct the agency to consider adding tablet computers to devices that consumers can unlock.
Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have also introduced bills to unlock mobile phones. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, and John Conyers of Michigan, the panel’s top Democrat, have also announced plans to sponsor such legislation.
After discovering the iPhone 5 would not function on its fourth-generation network, Hong Kong Telecom, a unit of telecommunications operator PCCW Ltd., filed a complaint with regulators in the country seeking a review of Apple’s iPhone locking practices. The Wall Street Journal reported HKT is now after a review from the courts regarding the way its initial complaint was handled. This could lead to a legal case against Apple’s over its locking policies:
HKT is seeking a judicial review of the way in which the regulator has dealt with the case. The regulator declined to comment on the case, citing current litigation.If the court chooses to grant a judicial review, it would open the way to the city’s first legal challenge of Apple’s locking practices in Hong Kong.
Bloomberg added that PCCW requested regulators investigate the blocking of iPhones on certain carriers including China Mobile and its own HKT:
Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone 5 is blocked from connecting to the fourth-generation wireless networks of PCCW and China Mobile Ltd. (941), while the smartphone can connect to rivals’ 4G high-speed networks, Hong Kong-based PCCW said in court documents obtained by Bloomberg News and dated Feb. 20… PCCW asked the regulator to investigate the locking of the smartphone, which restricts subscribers through SIM cards programmed to work with particular carrier networks, according to the documents.