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Wed Mar 13, 2013, 07:25 AM

IPhone Eyed by Small Carriers Backing Unlocked Devices

Small wireless carriers see a new path to scoring users of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone and other popular handsets: the legalization of unlocking mobile devices.

Regional and rural wireless providers are backing several bills in Congress that would let consumers unlock mobile phones and tablet computers without carriers’ permission. Big phone companies often land exclusive rights to offer the hottest devices, and U.S. rules currently prohibit altering software to let new phones from one carrier to work on other networks.

“Smaller carriers have a very difficult time getting access to smartphones and handsets,” said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents such companies as U.S. Cellular Corp. (USM) and Bluegrass Cellular. “The unlocking is one way the consumer can make the decision that I can try someone else who has better coverage in the area where I live or play.”

The Washington-based trade group is seeking to undo a Library of Congress decision, backed by largest U.S. mobile providers Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (T), barring consumers from unlocking their handsets without their carrier’s approval. The rules change, which took effect Jan. 26, reversed an earlier exemption under copyright law.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-13/iphone-eyed-by-small-carriers-backing-unlocked-devices.html?cmpid=yhoo

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