White House must respond to questions about cellphone unlock law as petition reaches 100,000 signatures

When the White House first launched its petition website, the goal was to create a direct medium of communication between government and the people. Petitions made a lot of sense as it was a great way to gauge which issues are most important to people. The White House promised to respond to any petition that reached a certain threshold before a certain amount of time.

The original threshold was set at 30,000 signatures, but because it was so easy for pranksters to get the White House to respond to a request to build a death star, the threshold was tweaked to 100,000. That made it more difficult to get discussion on real issues going, but we understand the need.

That said, the one petition us phone lovers really care about — the one to make the unlocking of cell phones legal again — reached the 100,000 mark just before the cut-off date. The Librarian of Congress put into effect a rule that effectively banned the act of unlocking your phone without carrier consent. Most scoffed at the law and the idea that the government could scare citizens away using court fines and possible prosecution, but regardless of how you feel about the ridiculous nature of the enforcement or the law itself most would still rather it be done away with.

With this milestone reached, an official from the White House must respond to the request laid out in the original petition. That doesn’t necessarily mean the White House has to comply with the request, but we will at least get a nice, thoughtful response. And note that even if the White House officials agree with the movement, it’s not entirely up to them whether or not the law stays, goes, or is changed.

The best case scenario would be to see the new law rescinded by the Librarian of Congress at the request of the Obama administration. In other words, don’t get your hopes up just yet — just be happy that we’ll even be able to get a real, meaningful response at all. We’ll keep our eye out for the update from the White House in the weeks to come.

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  • alfonzso

    That petition system is pretty much useless. Someone please tell me any positive changes that occurred based on a White House petition.

    • http://profiles.google.com/meadowsjared Jared Meadows

      We finally understand why in the world the US has not yet began construction on a planet-destroying death star…. :-P

    • http://twitter.com/Defenestratus Defenestratus


      Peasants petitioned the Emperor for breadcrumbs too.

  • DavidVarghese

    It would be interesting to see what the White House’s reasoning was behind this act… Well, other than companies lobbying and putting money into their pockets…

    • alfonzso

      There is no reasoning. Money talks.

    • BulletTooth_Tony

      you’re about 15 years too late to ask what the logic was in Congress approving it unanimously and President Clinton signing it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=547365936 Alex Thoma

        never too late to want the truth

  • http://profiles.google.com/meadowsjared Jared Meadows

    I find it slightly unnerving that I get a 404 error when I click the link to the petition. I’m still trying to remain optimistic that this is because it’s now moved on to the “we need to respond to this” pile? :-/

  • Marsg

    I would like to know more about this Deathstar

    • http://profiles.google.com/meadowsjared Jared Meadows
      • Marsg

        850,000,000,000,000,000, i bet i can get some illegal immagrents to do it at half the price. They also included destroying planets but at the same time it could save us from asteroids with a pre determined path of colliding with earth.

        • No_Nickname90

          There’s your “half the price”. LoL!! I don’t think so. Though the idea is still tempting. Wii should make this a project. Imagine the jobs it will create!! Even though they already proved why they shouldn’t. LoL!!

          • Marsg

            Hey at least they would be doing something usefully with the money, right now they are spending millions to pass laws that legalize things like nip slips on public broadcast networks, how do you think we arrived at a deficit? Wasting money on things that make no sense. Idk about you but to me a Death star would make more sense than legalized nip slips. I don’t want my tax money being used to make sure Beyonce wears a little more clothing. I want the opposite, and so does every other dude out their.

          • No_Nickname90

            Your response makes no sense. I just stated good points as to why they should build it and you’re talking to me as if I’m completely against the idea. I would love for this to happen. Then we could be that galaxy told in stories.

          • Marsg

            I wasn’t arguing with you, was just simply stating that we are already doing a lot worse than a Death star when it comes to money managing in this country. I apologize if it came off like that. Not my intent.

          • Robabobbob

            Someone has already created a kickstarter project to do this: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/461687407/kickstarter-open-source-death-star

      • Sean Daniel

        “We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.” I laughed. Such a load of crap.


      It already exists, it’s called the ISS Deathstar.

  • blest

    Hmm what will they say?


    The white house petition site is a joke. Gives people the false perception that their voice matters. The only way to get the attention of the US government, is to riot. Violence begets change.

    • David

      While I don’t agree with the violence, I do agree that the website is a joke.

      One interesting petition I saw a few months ago was to legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group. It ended up getting just over 340k signatures, yet there still has been no response from the White House about it.

      There are a ton of other ones that have far passed the threshold, but still have not had a response.


        I don’t necessarily agree that we need to violently riot, but unfortunately that’s how things get accomplished in this world. I remember that petition for Westboro. You know, the petition site is more of a list of anarchists for the government. It’s an easy way for them to track who is a trouble maker; who is rocking the boat. “Oh you want us to remove the ban on cell phone unlocking which is now a crime? Ok, let’s just save your name, email and IP address for future reference when we need to prosecute you falsely.”

        • David

          Unfortunately you’re right, and I agree – it seems to take violence to get a “true” reaction/response out of them, not that I’m condoning violence (and I don’t think you were either)

        • ntegrit

          Paranoid much?

          By the way, we are talking about the government – the far-from-technologically-handicapped CIA, NSA… right? If your fears are justified, do you think that “an anarchist” like you (just based on the anti-government sentiment expressed in your comment) couldn’t be found through Phandroid and Disqus?

          • NIGHTSCOUT

            LOL im not naive, i know that all digital communications are tracked and cross referenced in the USA, which is why i keep my nose clean. I don’t participate in criminal activities. I just don’t enjoy the fact that my privacy has been compromised for the supposed “greater good”

  • youareme7

    “must” is a strong word for Dear Leaderᵀᴹ. They’ve been blowing off those for ages.

  • the_real_kratos
  • rsanchez1

    Does anything ever happen with these petitions? I don’t know why everyone who blogs Android is freaking out about this, nothing is gonna happen except they’ll acknowledge it and move on.

  • Rdfry

    Obama doesn’t even read his security briefings, so why would he pay attention to petitions.

  • nsciucco

    If I want to unlock a phone to use on a different carrier I will. Come arrest me

  • jeremyseattle

    Dude, seriously, stop spamming every article with your blog.

  • Brian Charles

    Hope he isn’t too busy playing golf. May never get an answer.

  • mikedo2007

    Well they already responded about having open access to scientific research paper without any restriction:


    Hopefully they can do the same for the cellphone unlock.