The controversies associated with unlocking one's iPhone have dogged the smartphone since its origins, but now at last (with some qualifications), it looks like the practice will at last gain some legitimacy. The bill in question only covers the right to switch from one carrier to another, but it's a step forward, and the bill has only one more step to take before it becomes law.
The bill, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy reports, is called the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act" and the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill today. (See? At least Congress can agree on some things.) Last week the Senate approved it, and this week it's expected to go on to President Obama, who's expected to sign it into law.
There's a catch, though: The bill doesn't allow you to drop your current carrier in mid-contract, so you can't ditch your two-year contract with AT&T 12 months in and take up a plan with Verizon. This actually somewhat returns the law to the state of affairs in 2010 before an action by the U.S. Copyright Office in 2012, so that we'll (probably) soon enjoy "the Library of Congress’s former exemption so that consumers may unlock their phones after their contracts have expired."
The bill only covers smartphones as it's currently worded, but it could pave the way for broadening the measure to secondary devices such as tablets in the near future.