My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Librarian of the Library of Congress makes smartphone unlocking Illegal - How Jamaica can benefit from the Safe Haven of MNP by banning unlocking of smartphones and Tablets

Friday, February 8, 2013

Librarian of the Library of Congress makes smartphone unlocking Illegal - How Jamaica can benefit from the Safe Haven of MNP by banning unlocking of smartphones and Tablets

As of Saturday 25th January 2013, it has become illegal to unlock your smartphone and Tablet to place it on another Telecom Provider's Network as stated in the article “Unauthorized unlocking of smartphones becomes illegal on Saturday”, published January 25, 2013 4:57 AM PST by Eric Mack, CNET News.

This decision was made by the Librarian of the Library of Congress, the body which has oversight over the enforcement of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). The library of Congress has made the decision based on the fact that unlocking smartphones and Tablets basically tampers with the Firmware of the smartphones and Tablets and thus was illegal. In effect, they’re banning the use of unlocked unidentifiable smartphones and Tablets on their Telecom Networks.

In essence, this is the US Government basically enforcing MNP (Mobile Number Portability) rules by putting in place heavy fines of up to US$50,000 and even Jail time for those Americans who unlock smartphones and Tablets without permission from the Telecom Provider.

This Telecom Provider can easily detect by scanning their Database based on IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Number) and looking for smartphones and Tablets that are NOT registered on their Telecom Network. Once discovered, they’d be sent a Warning Notice to get registered or face heavy fines or Jail time.

Ironic, as the American Police already use MNP Databases for the various Telecom Providers via Court ordered Subpoenas to get access to Call Records from Telecom Providers and thus secure criminal convictions  and even locate missing persons since June 2010 as described in my blog article entitled “MNP and US Authorities - Enemy of the States”.

The Mexican Government has even adopted the use of the various Telecom Providers MNP Databases to fight the growing stem of Drug Cartel Related crime since April of 2010, preceding the American Governments decision by some two (2) months as stated in my blog article entitled “Mexico and MNP A solution to crime in Mexico”.

The GOJ under the previous JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) Administration had passed a MRSI Bill that would allow the Jamaican Police similar powers as noted in my blog article entitled “MNP and US Authorities - MRSI Bill to be passed to catch criminals”. The obvious advantages of MNP to Crime Fighting are described in my blog article entitled MNP and MRSI - How it leads to Mobile Number Portability and Crime Eradication in Jamaica and MRSI and MNP - Where the Spies Are”.

But back to the US of A!

The purchase of already unlocked smartphones and Tablets is still allowed, so long as you purchase a Data Plan with your Voice Plan when you activate it on a Telecom Provider’s Network. I suspect with time, Unlocked smartphones and Tablets may become as near-extinct as the Dodo Bird as Telecom Provider partner with Handset makers to increase their revenue stream by ensuring that all smartphones and Tablets are locked to a Telecom Provider Network.

It means, quite simply, that if you live in the US of A and have smartphones and Tablets on either Telecom Provider T-Mobile or Telecom Provider AT&T on a two (2) year contract with Data Plan (unavoidable by the way!), you cannot unlock it to use it on another GSM (Global System Mobile) Network. This rule applies to a limited extent to CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) smartphones and Tablets such as those on Telecom Provider Verizon and Telecom Provider Sprint, but less so, as it’s not as easy to unlock.

CDMA mobile devices have to be authenticated on their Telecom Network i.e. you have to get their permission to access the Network instead of just buying a pre-authenticated SIM Card. Good to note here that Unlocking applies mainly to Voice Calling on your smartphones and Tablets, something which fewer and fewer people are doing with their smartphones and Tablets.

Please this is very different from decision by the Copyright Office in the United States of America who in July 2010, 3 years ago, also used the DMCA and arguments presented by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and thus promptly legalized Jail-breaking as noted in “Feds say Mobile-phone jailbreaking is OK”, published July 26, 2010 10:31 AM PDT by Declan McCullagh, Politics and Law - CNET News and further elucidate in the article “On Call: Go ahead and jailbreak, its legal now”, published July 27, 2010 2:20 PM PDT by Kent German, CNET News - Dialed In.

Jail-breaking involves making changes to the OS (Operating System) of smartphones and Tablets to allow it to accept 3rd party Apps i.e. Apple iOS or Google Android. Unlocking involves making changes to the firmware and thus making it possible to switch SIM Cards and thus Telecom Networks.

Jail-breaking allows smartphone and Tablet users to use Apps downloaded to one smartphone and Tablet on other smartphones and Tablets with similar OS as well as features of that OS that may be locked.  For the record, App Developers and smartphone and Tablet makers such as Apple are opposed to Jail-Breaking as it messes up their revenue stream as noted back then in my blog article entitled “Apple and the Copyright Office - Developers Christmas bonus up in smoke”.

Curiously though, time’s proven that’s not been the case.

App stealing among Apple Sheep hasn’t increased, as many who like the Walled Garden Approach of Apple App Store and the quality Apps it presents don’t mind the US$0.99 to US4.99 for some premium Apps.

Apple users are spending at a rated of US$15 million in average daily according to the statistics of Analyst Distimo in “Google Play is growing faster, but Apple’s App Store brings in way more money: Distimo”, published 20 December 2012 by Andrii Degeler, The Next Web and “Google Play surges, but Apple's App Store is still No. 1”, published December 20, 2012 7:03 AM PST by Lance Whitney, CNET News.

The Apple App Store’s revenue mainly comes from in-app Purchases from Freemium Apps as had long been predicted by my Geezam blog article entitled “Smartphones and Apps – Freemium Games are No. 1”, indicating that despite getting Apps for Free, Americans and smartphone users in General are still willing to spend money on what’s become known as the App Economy.

Part of the reason too may be the lack of Tech savvyness among many smartphone and Tablet owners, who, like many computer owners are not interested in how the device works; they just want it to do what it does well and look good doing so. Fear of voiding their Warranties and not getting tech support to have their device fixed and thus ensuing problems with ETF (Early Termination Fees) is thus the result, knowing full well that if it’s broke, they can’t get help to fix their device.

Throw in the fear of your “precious”, based on the Gollum-like love for smartphones and Tablets among Americans, being bricked, and a natural deterrent forms in the mind of many smartphone and Tablet owners against Jail-Breaking.

The same is also true for unlocking smartphones and Tablets.

Just as with the case of Jail-Breaking, a lack of Tech Savvyness and a fear of the repercussions of unlocking your smartphones and Tablets are keeping many American walking the line of the straight and narrow. Thus the move benefits the customer and also the Telecom Providers, App Developers and Handset Makers, as it means they’re now prevented from switching Networks as they have a mind.

The Librarian of the Library of Congress argues that since no-one is being forced to buy smartphones and Tablets as unlocked Feature phones, non-smart phones and basic Tablets and e-Readers are available at prices as low as US$50 to US$199, then a rule to prevent unlocking smartphones and Tablets is fair as argued in “Unlocking your new smartphone is now illegal: What you need to know”, published JANUARY 26, 2013 BY ANDREW COUTS, DigitalTrends.

After all, you can easily get a regular unlocked Feature phones, non-smart phones, basic 7” Tablet and e-Readers at prices much lower than a most popular 2 year contract smartphones and Tablets. Also  smartphones and Tablets users mainly use the Data Service, not the Voice Services, indicating that they’re slowly making the transition over to just using Data Services with VoIP for Voice Calling. 

American, it seems, have submitted to the fact that in order to own a top-of-the-line smartphone and Tablet, you have to have a two (2) year contract with the mandatory Data Plan. Now with Unlocking, it means that they have been more committed to their Telecom Services Provider.

In essence, you’ve got to be officially registered with a Telecom Provider, thus enforcing MNP rules, making smartphones and Tablets and the SIM Card they are using easily identifiable and traceable back to their owners. There is also the additional side benefits of making smartphone and Tablet owners identifiable and easier for the Telecom Provider to remotely shut down in case it gets stolen, as stated in “AT&T, T-Mobile team up to curb smartphone theft”, published November 1, 2012 6:07 AM PDT by Don Reisinger, CNET News.

Interestingly  using this IMEI Database set up in November 2012 to recover your Mobile account but not your Data for smartphones and Tablets  as described in “Stolen cellphone databases switched on in US”, published 31 October, 2012 15:57 by Martyn Williams, PCWorld and “STOLEN PHONE DATABASE GOES LIVE, AS US CARRIERS WORK ON STAMPING OUT MOBILE THEFTS”, published November 1, 2012 By Andy Boxall, DigitalTrends began around the same time that the Librarian of the Library of Congress was mulling the possibility of making unlocking a Mobile phone illegal.

Now that they’ve done so, it effectively pins down everyone in terms of who owns what smartphone and Tablet, as it now illegal to unlock your Mobile device, making the IMEI Database more accurate.  It’ll be a matter of time, however, after vetting the accuracy of the records shared from the Telecom Providers, before they start shutting down smartphones and Tablets that are stolen and arresting people who are swapping SIM Cards on the same or on Different Networks.

Here in Jamaica, our Telecoms Market is slowly maturing as we’ve yet to even have our own Telecom Regulator as had been promised by the JLP Administration in 2011 as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “New Telecom Act Coming for Jamaica – Providers surprised with their Own Regulator”.

This even as news reaches our ears of yet a another Caribbean Territory, Bermuda, making strides and establishing its own Telecom Regulator in the very small island state as reported in “Bermuda To Launch Telecoms Regulatory Authority”, published Monday January 28, 2013, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Despite promises Minister of Science Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell as it relates to the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) commitment to a Telecom Regulator as noted in “Gov't intent on single regulatory body for Telecoms”, published Monday, January 21, 2013 | 7:11 PM, The Jamaica Observer, their actions speak otherwise. It’s been approximately a year and six months since this promise was made as noted in OUR to spin off telecoms division- Big 2 backs plan for single regulator”, published Sunday July 24 2011, The Jamaica Gleaner.

MNP should have been achieved in December 2012 as had originally been promised by Minister of Science Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell in the article “Paulwell promises number portability by December”, published Sunday, June 17, 2012 BY CONRAD HAMILTON Senior staff reporter, The Jamaica Observer

The OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation), the current steward of the Telecoms Sector until a new Telecom Regulator is set up, is no closer to implementing MNP (Mobile Number Portability). MNP is necessary to demonstrate to the NANP (North American Numbering Plan) that we’re efficiently managing the numbers we’re assigned to get additional numbers as noted in “Jamaica To Get Additional Area Code”, published Thursday February 7, 2013, The Jamaica Gleaner.

The explanation for this  problem goes back as far as 2009 and is mainly due to a lack of proper recycling of phone numbers by Telecom Providers trying to hold on to their competitive edge as noted in my blog article entitled “Digicel calls for MNP for Fixed Line - LIME's Brave Homefone Xpress coming with Telecoms Tax and Flat Rate Tariff”.

Mostly promises from the GOJ based on meeting in early January 2013 to establishing a timeline and getting the Telecom Provider to choose their own MNP contractor to set up the Database at their own expense as noted in “Gov’t To Sign Off On Number Portability”, published Monday January 7, 2013 | 8:59, The Jamaica Gleaner and “Minister Irons Out Number Portability Timeline With Leading Telecoms Firms”, published Thursday January 10, 2013, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Albeit both Telecom Providers LIME and Digicel display an eagerness for MNP as had been captured in my blog article entitled “Digicel calls for MNP for Fixed Line - LIME's Brave Homefone Xpress coming with Telecoms Tax and Flat Rate Tariff” it’s not really in their self-interest to do so. The main benefit to them is akin to that being achieved via the enforcement of the DMCA in the US; structured transfers of Mobile SIM Cards between phones on the same and different Networks, thus making money from people paying to switch Networks.

This as it’ll be at their cost as since neither Telecom Provider trusts the other and thus elaborate schemes would have to be devised to make sure their Phone Number Database don’t wind up in each other’s hands and not just the MNP Contractor that they BOTH have to jointly, agree upon and pay to set up the MNP Database. I’ll bet my salary at ACCENT Marketing Jamaica Limited that MNP’ll be implemented by the Second Quarter of 2013, as these issues need to be ironed out.

Upgrades to the Telecom Act and swift implementation of the Telecom Regulator should thus be in the offing similar to the ruling by the Librarian of the Library of Congress to prevent persons unlocking their Mobile phones, smartphone and Tablets and switching Networks as they have a mind.

A Benefit to the Telecom Providers as proper Registration via MNP will regulate Data usage on smartphones and Tablets and thus increase revenue from VoIP and Video Calling over Data Networks as noted in my blog article entitled “MNP and VOIP - a win-win situation for Telecoms Providers”.

Improved management of Telephone numbers in the Telecom Sector as Jamaicans go crazy over Smartphones and Tablets, marking the transition toward a Data Centric Telecom Sector as noted in my Geezam Blog article entitled “Apple iPhone boosts Jamaican smartphone usage as BB goes Chapter 11 Bankruptcy” and my blog article entitled “Blackberry popularity wanes as Jamaicans go smartphones - Android and Apple's Smartphone Revolution” .

Other non-Telecom Benefits of MNP abound mainly to do with Crime-fighting via MRSI as noted in my blog article entitled MNP and MRSI - How it leads to Mobile Number Portability and Crime Eradication in Jamaica and Gaming from Supreme Ventures as noted in my blog article entitled “MNP, Supreme Ventures Limited, Internet Gambling  and the Royal flush of Smart phones”.

Improve Crime-fighting for the Jamaican Police as it’ll make a cleaner Database from which to glean info on suspects via MRSI (Mandatory Registration of Subscriber Information), once they get the requisite Subpoena from a Supreme Court Justice as noted in my blog article entitled MNP and US Authorities - MRSI Bill to be passed to catch criminals”.

Thus while the Telecom Provider in the US of A Get locked down by the Librarian of the library of Congress in a Telecoms Market that’s already very much mature and saturated with Mobile phones, our Telecom Sector is in stagnation as we’re yet to declare the new 700MHz license for Data Services.

We in Jamaica are at the mercy of our Telecom Providers who are merely eyeing the money from the coming Data, Postpaid and Fixe mobile and Landline Revolution now sweeping Jamaica as noted in “2013: A year for data”, published Wednesday, January 09, 2013, by Camilo Thame Business Co-ordinator, The Jamaica Observer.

Perhaps the fact they’re FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) may explain their profit-driven outlook. With no Regulator, MNP or rules against Unlocking or Jail-breaking, Jamaicans are yet to benefit from the Safe Haven (2013) of MNP by banning the use of unidentified unlocked smartphones and Tablets in Jamaica.

1 comment:

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