A petition on the White House's website to work for a new law universally allowing the unlocking of cell phones recently raised more than 100,000 signatures from the public, and the White House has now officially responded to the idea, stating its support. The petition refers to Section 1201 of the Library of Congress' rules, which disallows users from unlocking their cell phones (including iPhones) for any reason, even when any contracts associated with the phones has expired. The phone industry says the rule is needed in order to keep illegal phone trafficking down, but obviously lots of consumers disagree, saying that the rule is prohibitive and often leads to lots of expensive fees.
The White House's statement of support isn't exactly legally powerful, as it doesn't have any direct control over the rule or the Library of Congress. But the president's office can push for a new law to overturn the rule, and of course an official statement of support from the White House can do a lot to push the issue forward. The Library of Congress sent TUAW a statement saying that "we also agree with the administration that the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context."So there's more "review" to be done on this issue. But for now, it sounds like there's both public and administration support for a change to the rule, which means there may come a time in the future when you're guaranteed to the right to unlock your phone whenever you want.