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Cell Phone Unlocking White House Petition Reaches 100,000 Signatures

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In January, unlocking a cell phone became illegal. But on Thursday, those unhappy with the change gained a small victory when a petition to legalize the unlocking of cell phones reached the White House's 100,000 signature threshold required for a response.

The petition urges Obama to reverse a Library of Congress decision last October that made cell phone unlocking -- which involves untethering a phone from a mobile carrier without the carrier's permission -- illegal starting Jan. 26. Phones are usually tied to a single mobile carrier (such as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon) through a contract the phone manufacturer makes with the carrying company. Untethering a phone is when people hack their phone so that it can receive service from any carrier.

The petition started nine days after the White House announced an increase in the number of signatures required for a response from 25,000 in 30 days to 100,000 in 30 days. The announcement came shortly after the site was flooded with a rash of frivolous petitions, the Verge reports.

Thus far, very few petitions have managed to break the 100,000 signature mark, which may mean petitions that do exceed the threshold carry new political weight -- after all, they likely can no longer be compared befittingly to the petition to construct a "Death Star." But it may be too early for cell phone unlocking advocates to declare victory: the White House has previously been accused of cherry-picking which petitions it responds to and of giving vapid responses to politically difficult requests, TechDirt reports. The Verge has already predicted that the White House won't "overrule the Library of Congress on the matter."

Other petitions that have passed the 100,000 signature threshold include one requesting Obama to recognize the 1992 Khojaly Massacre and one asking the White House to "punish all Dutch officials responsible for the death" of Russian activist Alexander Dolmatov.

Consumer groups like Fight For The Future are urging those interested in the issue to keep signing the petition, the Verge reports. The more signatures the document gets, the rationale goes, the more likely the White House is to provide "a meaningful response."

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