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Here’s good news for all those who do their e-reading on their smartphones or cellular-enabled tablets. Ars Technica reports that major carriers AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular have “voluntarily” committed to unlocking customers’ phones or tablets so they can be moved to other networks once their contracts have been paid off. (Prepaid phones would be unlocked no later than one year after their original purchase.)

In July 2010, we reported that a DMCA exemption for cell phone unlocking and jailbreaking had gone into effect. However, that exemption only lasted for two and a half years, expiring in January of this year. In March, the White House responded to a petition that received over 114,000 signatures saying that they were looking into their options for getting unlocking permitted for good.

Under the agreement, the carriers will implement three of the six standards that are part of the agreement within three months, and must have all six implemented within twelve months. So don’t expect to get your phone unlocked tomorrow. Also, this only covers unlocking for moving from carrier to carrier. It does not cover jailbreaking, as the DMCA exemption did, so that’s still illegal.

It’s not clear how or whether this affects other carriers, such as Virgin Mobile, who use one of the Big Five’s networks.

 
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