The Switchboard: House passes phone unlocking bill despite reformer objections

February 26

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

House passes watered-down phone unlocking bill that bans 'bulk' resale. "The US House of Representatives today passed a bill that would make it legal for individuals to unlock cell phones for use on a different carrier's network, but only after watering it down enough that consumer advocates opposed the legislation," Ars Technica reports. "Unlocking a phone allows it to be used with any cellular carrier, as long as the network is compatible, making it easier for consumers to avoid being tied to any one carrier."

State AGs lobby for Senate patent reform. "State attorneys general are lobbying the Senate to pass patent litigation reform," according to the Hill. "In a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees sent this week, 42 attorneys general expressed support for Congressional attempts to limit abuse of the patent litigation system and pushed for provisions that would give state consumer protection authorities more jurisdiction over 'patent troll' activity — bringing or threatening to bring frivolous patent infringement lawsuits."

After Mt. Gox implodes, Bitcoin CEOs and lawmakers scramble. The once-popular Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox "halted Bitcoin withdrawals last month, blaming it on a 'transaction malleability' problem with Bitcoin that it had not coded around as other companies had," Forbes writes. "On Monday, a day after CEO Mark Karpeles resigned from the Bitcoin Foundation board, the Mt. Gox site shut down citing 'the potential repercussions on MtGox’s operations and the market.'"

Google sets roadblocks to stop distracted-driver legislation. "Google is lobbying officials in at least three U.S. states to stop proposed restrictions on driving with headsets such as Google Glass," Reuters reports. "Some eight U.S. states are considering regulation of Google Glass, a tiny computer screen mounted in the corner of an eyeglass frame. Law enforcement and other groups are concerned that drivers wearing the devices will pay more attention to their email than the road, causing serious accidents."

'Six strikes' thwarting piracy, leader says. "A national effort to crack down on Internet piracy through a 'six strikes' system is seeing success, according to the program’s director," the Hill reports. "Privacy advocates and online free speech groups expressed concerns at the February 2013 launch of the Copyright Alert System, a voluntary agreement between the entertainment industry and major Internet providers that aims to reduce online piracy through peer-to-peer networks by sending warnings to users. Jill Lesser, who runs the system as manager of the Center for Copyright Information, said fears about the system were misplaced."

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Timothy B. Lee · February 25