Students may soon have access to cheaper cellphones

Jessica Meszaros/Contributing Writer

Students are overwhelmed with several payments including tuition, textbooks, food and gas, but may be catching a break with their cell phone bills in the future.

The White House and the Federal Communications Commission are urging Congress to overturn the law that does not allow people to use a cell phone which does not belong to their contracted service carrier.

For student consumers, this could lead to cheaper cell phones due to the competition over price after the initial service contract has been fulfilled. Each cell phone company would no longer be able to monopolize the price of their cell phones because they would be forced to compete with other service carriers and online cell phone sellers.

The Copyright Office of the Library of Congress ruled last year to open the software that restricts most phones from working on another service carrier’s network, according to The New York Times.

However, not all students are aware that there is an illegal process to maneuver around the software placed by Congress.

Jonathan Felix is a junior majoring in information technology. He said that the process of illegally activating a phone which does not belong to his carrier is not new to him. He has an Evo from Sprint, but uses the MetroPCS service carrier.

“You buy the phone from anywhere online or a different company, and there’s a friend of mine that actually does it,” said Felix. “He does some kind of, like, flashing to it and then you can use it on any carrier that you desire.”

He said that this process is completely out of the radar of his service carrier. MetroPCS is under the impression that his phone came from their specific stock. Felix feels that people should be able to purchase cell phones from anywhere and have them activated to any service carrier they please.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, unlocking a cell phone could lead to a $500,000 fine and five years in prison.

The Library of Congress stated, according to The New York Times, that it agreed with the Obama administration that the issue of whether consumers should be able to unlock their phones “has implications for telecommunications policy” and that it should be reviewed by Congress and the administration.

Faisal Kaleem, professor of electrical and computer engineering, did not respond to a scheduled phone interview with Student Media to discuss the issue.

Tiara Cruz, psychology junior, wants to change her service carrier to Sprint, but has to pay a penalty fee of about $300 to do so. She has a T-Mobile Gravity phone and dislikes the T-Mobile service because of poor signal quality. Cruz thinks that the White House and FCC request for phones to be unlocked is a good decision.

“I think that’s going to be better for me because I can use my cell phone and I don’t have to pay to have another one,” said Cruz.