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Congress Passes Bill to Allow Cellphone Unlocking

You'll soon be able to take your cellphone from one carrier to another without any fear of breaking the law. Congress has passed a bill legalizing "unlocking" your phone, which removes the barriers preventing you from using, say, an AT&T phone on T-Mobile's network. A software setting is often all that restricts a phone to just one network but only your carrier can give you the code to change it. Most carriers have been reluctant to do so, since it makes switching easier. Until recently, it wasn't even clear whether unlocking was legal — but the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act," passed by the Senate and House and on its way to the President's Barack Obama's desk, fixes that. Obama said in a statement Friday that he looks forward to signing the bill into law, saying it will give Americans "more flexibility and choice."

The act legalizes unlocking, but that doesn't mean carriers have to do it — if your carrier subsidized your phone's purchase, you likely will have to pay the rest of the cost, or at least wait several months before it can be unlocked.

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