The U.S. Library of Congress has made it a criminal act to unlock your cell phone without permission from the carrier that sold you the phone. The new law was ostensibly created to put a halt to operations that buy and unlock cell phones and then ship those unlocked phones for resale overseas. But the net result of the new law is that consumers will be getting screwed once again. Fat chance that your existing carrier will grant you permission to unlock your phone to switch to another carrier or for use overseas.
The free market in the U.S. continues to become more of an assortment of monopolies. Cell phone service is no exception. When only a handful of companies have a stranglehold on the market, it’s the consumers who often get fleeced. This latest law only works to limit choices for consumers.
I never realize just how much of a rip-off cell phone service is in the U.S. until I travelled to Southeast Asia. In Thailand I was able to buy a SIM card from 7-11 for around $3.25 that included some airtime. I then bought a basic Samsung phone and charger for around $12. I simply inserted the SIM into the new phone and voila, I had service. I used that phone various times over a four week period and was surprised that I never exceeded the included airtime. I then went to Vietnam, where I bought another SIM card and swapped it for the Thai SIM card. The cost of the Vietnamese SIM card with minutes was only around $2.00. I made various calls during my four week stay in Vietnam and never had to top-up the card after the initial purchase. I was amazed.
Cell phone customers in the U.S. have more to be unhappy about than a limited choice of providers. Taxes on cell phone usage are exorbitantly high. Nationally, the combined Federal, State, and local taxes average 16%. If you live in a State with a government that just can’t get enough money, like New York, then over 20% of your bill will come from taxes. If anything is criminal, it’s such high taxes on the ability to communicate with one another.
For more on the issue of unlocking your cell phone, see the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Website.