When I originally posted this to HN at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5112020 there were a lot of very skeptical responses to the effect of "petitions don't have any effect". The optimist in me is glad they were wrong. The White House seem to be genuinely committed to helping push through a piece of legislation to fix this. If there's something about government that bugs you, it's worth trying to do something about it.
Also, we're launching a campaign to ask Congress to change Section 1201 of the DMCA, with backing from the EFF, Reddit and others.
Sign up at http://fixthedmca.org - should be launching the site tomorrow.
Petitions don't have any effect other than getting a response that's designed to get you to stop complaining from a false sense of achievement. In that sense, they work perfectly.
I emigrated from the US after it became clear they weren't going to reinstate the rule of law. Your military-industrial complex is the reason that it's so hard to change things around... there.
This is why you have bullshit laws like the DMCA in the first place.
We just completed our one-hundred-thirteenth peaceful transition of power at the will of the people. The entrenched powers-that-be are only entrenched because we, as an electorate, keep voting for them. If everybody showed up to the polls, they'd be out in two years— but hey, why bother?
Even quite corrupt democracies are more open to be changed by popular vote than the US, were not being bought and paid for beforehand means you don't have the means to successfully stand for election.
Hell, even countries where political candidates regularly get murdered stand more chance of peaceful democratic change.
The US political system is a effectively a convoluted equivalent of having a ballot with only one name on it. Only in this case it's a dollar sign. I would be very surprised if this could be overturned by peaceful means, but it will most certainly require extra-parliamentary action, because US democracy has been sold.
Gerrymandering is a huge problem. Voter suppression is a huge problem. Electoral fraud may be a huge problem. But these things have not succeeded in destroying our democracy, yet — the person who wins the election becomes the person in power, every time. Our system is working, we're just losing.
So don't get involved if you like, sit back and be cynical if it makes you feel better(?), but don't pretend you're not part of the problem.
That is a joke, isn't it?
"Why does this computer hate me?!" "The people who built it must be stupid."
It's not world changing in any way at ALL to say some entity or organization is corrupt. Find me an organization that hasn't being called corrupt.
Do you remember in 2011, when OPERA had some experimental results that suggested neutrinos were moving fast than light? I was in the reddit comment thread covering this story at the time. I made the point that there's no way this is actually happening, and that they were just releasing these results to get 3rd party analysis into what was happening.
By the next morning I had a flood of downvotes and comments about how naive stubborn thinkers like me are rejecting science and ruining the world, and that if only I'd open my eyes to the possibility of something new, even if it shook the foundations of my beliefs, then we could make progress as a species. ect. ect. ect.
Turned out it was a measurement error and they were just releasing results to the public to get 3rd party analysis.
Yes, the Tea Party started out as a grassroots thing, but it was quickly co-opted by the existing power structure and its message lost.
We're all so predictably unparticipatory that spending a hundred million dollars to move the needle a few tenths of a percent one way or the other makes good political sense. If everybody showed up to vote, that would simply not be true. That's the point I've been making this whole time.
As former Presidents Steve Forbes, Nelson Rockefeller, Ross Perot, Donald Trump, John (Heinz) Kerry, and Mitt Romney clearly demonstrate, money is all that matters in politics.
Just one example from the link:
> Abramoff and his law firm were paid at least $6.7 million by the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from 1995 to 2001,
which made manufacture goods with the "Made in the USA" label but is not
subject to U.S. labor and minimum wage laws.
What’s good about that one is it went on for years and all the politicians knew about it.
I think you are trying to make the point that money bought the all politicians. While that is somewhat true in some cases it isn't the full story.
I suspect if you dig deeper what you will find is that no one cared enough to fix the problem.
I'd note in particular that the bill designed to stop the abuses in CNMI was passed unanimously in the Senate, but then blocked by Tom DeLay in the house. While is it easy to say that DeLay blocked the bill because of money, the truth is that DeLay is quite happy to block any bill that involves new labor laws.
Abramoff found someone who's politics already aligned with what he wanted to happen and then made sure that person saw it as something important enough to do something about it.
I'm not at all sure that is political corruption at all.
(ie, Money is important, but it isn't the only thing)
You're half right. Technically we tax payers only lease our elected officials, they aren't our property (that became illegal a few years ago)
What's really funny is how people keep paying into a system they don't like and never do anything about it. According to popular practice, everyone thinks that Facebook and Twitter statuses will create change in Congress. Somebody should write a FAQ about that.
There isn't a choice. It is why I vote libertarian. But the root problems are deeper than that, mainly that you have individual citizens voting for too many people they have no empathy or commonality with, and that politics is a profession rather than civil service.
Not exactly. There are two things that win elections: Money and votes. And money only because it can be used to buy votes.
When the major parties agree on an issue it's because that issue has a stable equilibrium: Either the parties both side with the electorate or the monied interests because the number of vote-equivalent dollars gained in changing positions is not greater than the number actual votes lost by doing so (or vice versa). So you don't see many politicians seriously advocating legalizing murder or drastically slashing the defense budget, respectively.
But all you have to do to get them to change is to make the number of votes they lose by siding with corporations on a particular issue greater than the amount of money they get by doing so. You don't even have to get the parties to split -- most of the issues they're split on are intentionally wedge issues or detail-free hogwash like "small government" or the vague notion that rich people should pay more taxes. You can actually get them both to start siding with the interests of the people on a particular issue, you just have to make more noise than what the opposing interests are paying in dollars. It has happened before. The establishment of the EPA, the breakup of AT&T, the defeat of SOPA, it's a pretty long list.
But it only happens if we make it happen. We have to make them understand that if they don't do what we want, they lose more votes than the money they're being paid can buy them back. Getting 100,000+ voters to sign a petition that brings the issue to the attention of lawmakers may not be sufficient to achieve that on its own, but it ain't a bad start.
Out of 435 house representatives, each election every two years, only a dozen or two seats will change party. At best. That often throws the balance in congress towards one party or the other, but the vast majority of congressmen can be corrupt as fuck and never worry about losing their seat because they are in "red" or "blue" districts.
If you don't live in one of the few turbulent districts with political discourse, nothing will change and the congressman has no care for his / her constituents because they can't be displaced, and the constituents are brainwashed into an us vs them mentality and local culture of blaming everything on the "other guy" even when their rep is actively voting against them.
In addition to that, gerrymandering just pushes the real campaign into the primaries for those seats. If your representative's party has a hard lock on your district's seat, do what the Tea Party has been doing and primary the incumbent. And fewer people vote in the primaries, so each vote you can shift from one candidate to another counts for more there.
But you can get the result you want through the primaries. Run your candidate against the incumbent in the primary and keep emphasizing your specific issues and publicizing the incumbent's corrupt stance on them -- even if you don't always win, you may be able to get the incumbent to change positions.
This is known as Duverger's Law:
There are a number of meaningful counterexamples, perhaps most notably in the UK, where Lib Dems have received a significant number of seats since 1974.
These discussions tend to obscure the degree of differences within a given party in the US. (ie, Zell Miller and Dennis Kucinich once shared a party. Though Kucinich was given an "F" by the NRA on gun issues, Zell was later elected to the NRA's board of governors. Kucinich was also a strict vegan, while Zell once threatened to shoot Chris Matthews. You could run similar comparisons by bringing in other Dems, you could do the same on the other side of the aisle. ie, not many Republicans would consider marrying one of the Kennedys or praise Obama's post-hurricane support, but a couple would.)
Any two-party system with a diverse electorate will eventually have to allow substantial variation in candidates and viewpoints, or it will be inevitably reduced to regionalism and obscurity.
A many-party system will eventually force smaller parties into large coalitions to attempt any governance at all.
In short, a two party system and a many-party system are not substantially different in the number of political viewpoints they entertain, nor in the types of compromises required between those factions to result in political action.
If you're not already aware, I would encourage you to check out Lawrence Lessig and the Rootstrikers organization which is aiming to reduce the influence that money currently has on elections.
Question: Can you recommend any particular organizations that are employing your above strategy of targeting primaries of contested districts to defeat soulless "bought and paid" incumbents?
99.9% of federal employees are not elected. That's the true entrenched power - the permanent bureaucracy. They'll be there regardless of who gets elected.
Wait..., what? The military-industrial complex has something to do with locking cell phones? Are you familiar with the origin of this phrase?
As for why "broad industry support" is so crucial--it's because Americans care pretty much only about jobs. The media sector has jobs and the internet sector has jobs, and when you can get content owners and tech giants to agree on something, well then from the perspective of a Congressman you're in job-creation wonderland.
It's mind-boggling to hear all these rants about how "democracy is dead" when people here obviously fail to look beyond their own circle of idealistic friends to see what the American electorate is really asking for. E.g. remember Obama and Romney falling over themselves to see who could support coal power more in the last debate? You think it was because of checks written by the coal lobby? Of course not. In 2008, more than half of Obama's money came from donations under $200. Some coal lobby checks aren't going to make a dent in the situation. The real reason the candidates fell over themselves supporting Big Coal is voters. Voters in rural Pennsylvania whose livelihood depends on the coal industry. Hell voters everywhere--even your average American liberal is deeply skeptical of well-established progressive concerns like the environment, and are liable to believe something like "we can't pass measures that raise energy prices in a recession." You think they give a shit about "freedom of information," the "freedom to tinker," etc?
American politics is 90% a referendum on jobs, and has been since the recession of the late 1980's/early 1990's. Big corporations hold themselves out as job creators and creators of economic growth. At least half of voters outright believe that, and even among those that ostensibly don't, they don't disbelieve it all that strongly. That's what creates the corporatism in American politics.
Why does Congress support Verizon's right to lock down their phones over peoples' freedom to tinker with their phones? Because Verizon creates jobs. And while individuals may be annoyed by policies like that, what they are more worried about, indeed deeply afraid of, is any measure that would piss off the job creators.
It is absurdity because it provides a mechanism by which fair use can be completely restricted. It is the equivalent of saying "You are completely allowed out of your cell, provided that you do not break the lock."
The way politicians see it (not without merit): embraced by 'job creators', ignored by the public, opposed by a tiny minority of people who wouldn't vote for them anyway.
And they're what's important, right?
The fact it inflicts perverse rules on everyone else is just a side effect and who cares?
So, yes, the reason that we have the DMCA is because of big content and big telecoms - a large part of the "industrial" arm of the "military-industrial complex".
Thank you, drive through.
The phrase does not apply to any industry, it refers specifically to the defense industry, of which telecoms are not a part. Otherwise, we could plausibly say that any sufficiently large business in the US is part of the "military-industrial complex," which is not the case.
So it has little, if anything, to do with the military-industrial complex.
In order for that to fit the analogy, AT&T would have to have lobbied the government to create that so it could profit from it.
There might be many BS copyright laws and extensions, but the DMCA ain't one of them.
What you're talking about is USC 512 (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/512), 17 USC § 512 - Limitations on liability relating to material online
These are more or less completely unrelated apart from being introduced in the same legislative act (which also did a fair number of other changes to the law.)
Perhaps you should look up what "lobbying" is, and what industries have lobbies. (hint: ALL OF THEM)
If anyone is in the video game industry and wants to try and move to Berlin, this is a pretty good company who is hiring right now: http://www.yager.de/career/
The way I immigrated was by having a baby with a German. That allowed me to get a work permit / permanent resident status without any hassle at all.
I mean....ok...I get that the process by which laws are made and passed can seem corrupt at times.....but come on.....this is just straight hyperbole and cynicism.
If you are complaining about America, why don't you move to a third world country - where we don't have basic things like election campaign laws that politicians have to disclose donors.
It's so easy to complain about what you have...when you have no idea what others have to live with on a daily basis.
Anyway, where did you move that's so much better? Somewhere else you can organize a petition against the interest of major corporations and receive a phone call from the highest levels of government agreeing with you and asking to work with you. Sure, some small uniform Scandinavian governments might be more accessible, but I'm curious what your choice was.
There is a problem with some skeptics that purposely lead people on goose chases, but the true ones will attack key problems that we can then focus our efforts.
Pessimism is not realism. Getting the full verbal support of a second-term lame-duck administration with nothing to lose is not a negligible achievement. Some progress != no progress. You're right that petitions have limited scope and effect, but in successful efforts like these, they can generate publicity and political momentum, giving ammunition and gravitas to Congressmen who would co-sponsor legislation. At the very least it is a step in the right direction.
The system is broken, but sitting back and needlessly berating those who would try to take small steps to achieve small goals is hardly an acceptable response. It's calculus; if you integrate a positive attitude over a large enough population of believers, you can effect large-scale change. If you integrate so-called "cynical realism" over the same intelligent population, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy of defeatism which is nothing to pat yourself on the back about, either. I applaud sinak's achievement and I hope that this conversation shifts to what steps need to be taken next.
The term "lame duck" typically refers to Presidents at the tail end of their term, most often used in the time between an election and a transition of power. That isn't the case here.
A president elected to a second term is sometimes seen as being a lame duck from early in the second term, because presidents are barred from contesting a term four years later, and is thus freer to take politically unpopular action. Nonetheless, as the de facto leader of his or her political party, the president's actions affect how the party performs in the midterm elections two years into the second term, and, to some extent, the success of that party's nominee in the next presidential election four years in the future.
But you are certainly correct about typical usage.
Petitions raise visibility and they require organization to get the signatures. Organizing to get the signatures once means you build the mailing lists etc to organize for other things later.
I mean, when they instituted this petition thing in 2009 do you think they were really thinking "We need some kind of 1984 mind control device here after that presidential campaign"?
As far as the actual content -- read the word 'respect' in the diplomatic context there and it's pretty clear that they'd love to get rid of this, but don't have the legal authority to just up and do it.
If anything, it's remarkable how effective that was. What sort of change did you expect with so little effort?
If you've ever done business development, you'd know that opening that dialog is frequently the hardest step. Meaningful changes are carefully considered, and they don't happen overnight. This is a good first step.
How true and essentially the value of "connections" I would add. They get the person (you are "selling" to) to at least listen to what you have to say and consider it and to typically be taken more seriously.
Quit being such a damn naysaying cynic.
However, an exec order for cell phone unlocking would be a tremendous waste of political capital.
Unfortunately, that kind of stuff takes time.
I would generally be interested to know if it ever has actually been enforced so far.
Remember: vote with your wallet/ballot. Outrage works when it is concentrated and directed at the right people.
Resultantly, nothing that you put on a ballot is going to reverse the direction at this point. There's only voting with your tax dollars.
I'm also sure they bend over backward to find a reason to agree with something just so they can say they are agreeing with some petitions and get points for it in news stories instead of giving a negative response.
Politicians do this as well. If you visit your local congressman he will be glad many times and enthusiastic about supporting your special interests. How much he goes to bat for you depends of course on the issue and who you are. At least he can wave a finger and say "I tried but the others wouldn't vote for it". Much better than telling you up front your issue will never get voted into law.
Here, they are saying: yeah. We agree with you. We don't write the damn laws- but here is what we're willing to sign.
Our job is to get our Senators and Representatives to change the law.
It may not be pretty, and it's certainly not efficient, but this is democracy in action. It requires effort from its citizens in order to work. Not running away.
EDIT: I forgot to add, that I did receive a 'blow it out your ass' response from President Clinton many years ago. He later reversed his stance on the issue, but it was too late for him to affect it and just left it as a recommendation to the next pres- who ignored it.
So while I see your point that many may view this as ineffective and therefore a loss I definitely consider it a win in agreement with the parent.
1. Petition was made
2. Signature goal was met
3. WH responded favorably in agreement with petition supporters.
5. Profit! ;)
The larger question is a tension, not about what this process produces, but about what this process reproduces. The really dangerous aspect of ineffective but affirming processes like these is the implication that We the People have the power no matter how much evidence accumulates to the contrary. It follows logically that when The People don’t affect changes in our system, we must not want to change it. Hypothetically, we believe in justice, freedom, etc. or we would not have formed a democracy. Since we freedom-loving, democratic people would naturally act to end oppression as soon as we found it out, it follows that if a policy, law or practice does not change then it must not truly oppress people.
Clearly, this train of thought has not, does not and will never transport us to a genuinely free society.
I'd much prefer a broad fix, repealing Section 1201 of the DMCA, So that's what I'm working on next. Having the WH says that there are real problems that need to be addressed by Congress seems like a "win" - but perhaps of the milder kind. A loss would have been if they defended carrier/CTIA positions, or simply stated that the Librarian of Congress has authority and that they can't take action. Both of those were definitely a possibility.
Generally, I agree about the danger of affirming processes that don't result in real action. If the bombard-congress-campaign I'm working on at FixtheDMCA.org works, we've got the abstraction in place to let other people create similar campaigns relatively easily. Which will hopefully those freedom-loving, democratic folk get more involved in the political process, which is ultimately what we want.
I think other similar platforms, for example Causes or Change.org fall woefully short in actually affecting change legislatively. Hopefully what we're working on will be better in those regards.
"Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad."
If their response only applies to situations where you've let your service contract expire, it doesn't seem to allow you to unlock your phone for use on multiple carriers while under contract with the carrier from which the phone was purchased. Could you clarify whether you're satisfied that their approach would avoid criminal liability in such a situation?
What are the pros and cons versus trying to amend it down until it didn't apply to much of anything?
You're confused about who "We the People" are. "We the People" are not the technolgenstia that hangs out on HN. "We the People" are my wife's parents in rural Oregon. There are things they care about, but this is not one of those things.
"What this process reproduces" is inaction on issues that don't rile up more than a tiny minority of people. I'm not sure why this is surprising.
Processes like this affirm the logic that government fails us because we the people are too apathetic, or too unaware, or too stupid, or too anything at all to yield our immense power (!) as we ought. That, yes, if we enlightened/progressive few could only mobilize, inform, or educate the public, then everything would work out beautifully!
Power can rest easy as long as we place blame on ourselves and not them for our alienated position in modern society, and that will continue until we recognize the lack of agency that we have, rather than reproducing processes which give us a false sense of agency.
The other is to take matters into our own hands and to force them to make those decisions that we want, if only by making a clear statement of: "if you want to keep your little seat of power, you better do these things we want or we'll vote in someone who will".
Approach one is naive at best: even if people in government are generally willing to make the right decisions (which is by no means a given), identifying what decisions those are is a hard problem to begin with, and that's is compounded by the fact that there are many more forces at play than mere morality (pah!).
Positive change doesn't just magically come about because many people sit on their couches being really, really in favour of something. They come about when many people get off their couches and take action. Our governments fail us because we've largely forgotten that democracy is more than going into the voting booth every 4 years and choosing between bad and worse.
That is an uncharitable way of putting it though. There are some very good reasons (or excuses) for our failure to fulfil our part of the contract in a healthy democracy.
If you work 12 hours a day just to make ends meet, live paycheck to paycheck, and all you have energy for in the evenings and weekends is sitting on the couch and absorbing whatever dribble the telly feeds you, it's hard to summon the willpower to improve your long term perspectives.
Similarly (though I don't mean to equate the two scenarios), if you're a privileged software engineer who makes 6 figures, it's hard to summon the motivation or even detect the problem. What do you mean? What problem? I'm doing fine, and so do all the other (privileged rich) people I know.
You know what? I started out writing this to disagree with you, to place the blame squarely with a lazy and inactive citizenry. Now... I'm not so sure any more. So thanks for giving me something to think about!
This is what has been happening: We've been too hesitant to wield our immense power, meaning we've been yielding it by default to those who are willing to use it.
(The autocorrect error here was way too apropos to pass up.)
We The People do have the power, but to exercise it in one's preferred direction, one needs to get most of the People to agree on the same direction and priorities. That is not easy to do, regardless of how self-evident the benefits of a particular policy direction might appear to oneself individually.
Publicizing the issue and getting an official favorable response from the President is not actually nothing.
I'm curious what you propose as an alternative, which will allow one individual among several hundred million to feel as if they are politically empowered even when the majority of the country completely disagrees with them, meaning that in reality they have no influence.
Or is the point that special people (you?) should be empowered more than others?
I think people do understand that not all their wishes can come true and that there are others whose wishes are the exact opposite (with respect to rules and.
So long as the process is predictable and somewhat transparent, then I think people's expectations will be reasonable.
Somehow this argument does not sound convincing. Yes, one shouldn't expect too much from a mere petition - but that's what was said from the very beginning!
As for president's apparent inability to change laws - give me a break. He's the leader of the major US party who just won the elections, he controls the Senate, he has wide range of supporters in the press, he can successfully solicit billions in donations - and he's absolutely powerless to do any effort towards fixing this little thing? Somehow I have hard time believing it.
>>>> You still have to drive the damn thing to get where you need to be.
Driving the car is not done by internet petitions, though. That's the whole point - having WH say something on some page worth nothing, they did it many times on many issues, and they can keep doing what they did before regardless, and renege on all promises, and people would just say "oh, we can't expect too much from them - they're just the President and the ruling party, who could expect they could actually do anything?" If they can't - who can?
And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Ac... has a quick explanation:
> In addition to the safe harbors and exemptions the statute explicitly provides, 17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1) requires that the Librarian of Congress issue exemptions from the prohibition against circumvention of access-control technology. Exemptions are granted when it is shown that access-control technology has had a substantial adverse effect on the ability of people to make non-infringing uses of copyrighted works.
> The exemption rules are revised every three years. Exemption proposals are submitted by the public to the Registrar of Copyrights, and after a process of hearings and public comments, the final rule is recommended by the Registrar and issued by the Librarian. Exemptions expire after three years and must be resubmitted for the next rulemaking cycle. Consequently, the exemptions issued in the prior rulemakings, in 2000, 2003 and 2006 are no longer valid.
He could change it, but he's not interested enough to change it.
Sure he's not powerless to change it. But it's a little issue that doesn't matter to more than a few people, so he's not going to use his time or political capital to do the legwork himself. What he's doing is giving you the thumbs-up to proceed on the issue yourself.
This statement is something you can take to your house representative and go: "look, the President supports this!" You can petition the FCC to exert pressure. You can get some of those 100,000 people who signed the petition to call their Congress-people. And you can tell them, "hey, the President has gone on the record as supporting this.". To a Congress-person it suggests that it might be worth someone's time to draft up a bill and score some easy points. It gives you something to build a coalition around. That's huge.
The president is a human starting gun. If Obama made a press release saying "We will fix this," it _instantly_ becomes a major part of the national dialog. Putting out a positive response saying "we support this and want to make it happen" is a weaker form of that. It puts it in articles, newspapers, on the minds of the FCC, the Library of Congress, Representatives and Senators.
Getting legislation changed is (and probably should be) a _huge_ hurdle. Step 1 is to put the problem in front of people that have the power to make changes. This does that in a big way.
Very few wireless carrier issues are legislated by congress - that falls on the regulator, the FCC. If you want to let customers switch carriers that's who will make it happen. If the president told Genachowski to make it happen for real, it's very likely he would. At worst it would end up on terms on upcoming wireless auctions, but that wouldn't be too bad given that they're going in to converged networks.
If someone tells you to go to congress to get a bill passed to amend the DMCA they may not hate you but they're certainly not helping you. Anything altering the DMCA will attract amendments like crazy, and anything anti-carrier will get tons of lobbyist attention. And then even if you win you've still left me with a phone that the existing people who are perfectly happy to break the law and unlock your phones for a fee have no idea how to unlock - so I'll still be tied to my carrier anyway.
I am so glad that someone actually said this! We used to understand that the president's primary job was command-in-chief of the armed services and to represent the strength of our nation, in a diplomatic way of course. More recently people think that the president is the commander-in-chief of the legislature. WTF. That is not his primary job. He can veto and try to enforce law, but not legislate.
I can't really imagine a more effective outcome in any representative democracy of 300 million people where 99% of them don't give a shit about your "right" to tinker with your cell phone.
Changing laws (generally) takes years.
Sometimes it takes the people speaking up about an issue for the government to get a sense of what the people want.
Now for anyone else tho is on here call your congressmen and senators! They really do care what you think and about the public opinion even above what lobbyists have to say.
For those getting all worked up about how it is still illegal to unlock cell phones, think of it like this. The DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent/crack software security - period. You phone is locked by software. Up til January, there was an exemption for phones. Now there's not. The problem isn't "unlocking phones". The problem is "you can't alter something expensive you've bought and paid for in full".
In a way this is good. Regular people will get pissed at the carrier for not unlocking their phone at the end of their contract. And suddenly regular people will see how bad the DMCA is. The DMA targets not just Movie Pirates.
Signing a petition to the White House and having the White House respond "we agree with you" does not mean that you convinced them. It means they agree with you.
We really, really, really don't want government interference in voluntary private contracts.
You just don't get the telco to pay for 2/3rds of your phone when you do that.
We're not talking about a legislated monopoly here, like your local power company. No one is FORCING you to go down to your local Verizon reseller and buy a contract phone. You're free to either buy an unlocked smartphone (at full un-subsidized price), or a prepaid phone, or any other of a multitude of options.
Once upon a time there was a group of people. They had common interests, but it was hard and inefficient to make decisions as a large group. So a government was formed to represent the individuals in the group and to tend to their common needs.
Let's go back to the present.
So one side is a big corporation that has one voice, the other side are consumers, i.e. people that have many voices. Government (at least a properly working one) is there to represent the will of the people and to give them a single voice. I don't see anything wrong with that.
P.S: I think it fair to suggest that what the majority of consumers want is the cheapest possible phone. That means locked phones on subsidies.
Regarding your second point, the assumption is that the government is rational. Adult-like and not child-like.
I'd advise you don't click this link: http://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/6500-100.html, it might be pretty upsetting....
You can buy unlocked phones.
Right here for instance: http://store.apple.com/us/buy/home/shop_iphone/family/iphone...
You just don't get to have your cake and eat it too.
How badass did you feel writing that? I feel badass for you.
Good job. Well done.
That doesn't really move the needle, does it?
It's also highly suspect of this administration actually supporting this - HIGHLY suspect. It goes against many things they've done to try to force more commerce and money exchanging hands.
* "And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network."
* "...neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation."
The White House response doesn't support unlocking phones, only unlocking phones after contracts are expired. Which isn't at all what the petition complains about. They evaded it entirely.
No, it's lower than that. They're pretending to agree with the petition, in the tone of their writing; but when you read the fine print, they don't. It's fucking doublespeak.
Could this be more draconian? Contract law is normally covered by civil penalties. And the current administration supports it.
Obviously, the phone seller would like to nickle and dime you throughout the length of a 2 year service agreement, but when you enter a service agreement, you are entering a contract that you can break, and you are getting something for your troubles. The government should be interested in making an even playing field for the market & consumers. I don't see what's inherently wrong here.
So that you can switch telecoms when you're travelling, to avoid extortionate fees. This is one of the complaints in the petition.
1. The White House thinks this is a good idea, but it is not within their powers to implement change under the current law.
2. These rules (DMCA exceptions) fall under the Library of Congress, and the White House has recommended a review of said rules.
3. The LoC has also responded and agreed to re-review these exceptions: "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." 
4. In an amicus-like capacity, the FCC has also responded and commented on the current regulatory regime: "From a communications policy perspective, this raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and
for wireless consumers, it doesn't pass the common sense test. The FCC is examining this issue, looking
into whether the agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers' ability to
unlock their mobile phones." 
The Library of Congress could choose to reinstate the unlocking exception, which they at least purport to be reviewing. Or, the FCC could step in and claim regulatory oversight and create new regulations. Neither of those actions require direct congressional intervention, and both appear to have much higher visibility as a consequence of this petition.
The White House understands the petition and claims to agree. However, they aren't going to do anything about it other than wait for the "legislature" to address the issue.
You might as well petition the corporate owners of the major cell. carriers, as they are probably the only ones who will do anything about this.
The process is slow, but it is pretty durable. I've got both the petition and the Whitehouse response in my notebook, and we're in an 'off' year but next year we'll put a bunch of new candidates up for congress, this will come out again as a test to see if they did what was demanded or not. So the stage is set assuming we use the tools given us :-)
It isn't in favor of AT&T. At all. Having platform lock in means after they sell you a device they can price gouge you indefinitely and since you probably bought the device outright since you aren't on a 2 year contract and thus have the option to change carriers, you probably don't want to just ditch it immediately.
Platform lock in is good for device manufacturers, carriers, and business, but bad for consumer freedom, choice, and market competitiveness. And there is no multi-billion dollar lobby for the the latter.
It helps to know who they got money from, because if I ask them to take a stand that their donors won't like, that is where the counter argument will come from. Sometimes you can cut that off before it happens by going to the donors site(s) and looking for white papers or position statements that outline their arguments for what it is they believe.
The executive branch of gov't cannot make laws. It's that simple. But if they needed to somehow override something without waiting for Congress, there are vehicles like Executive Orders. But they are more like exceptions and statements of policy, and still not substitutes for legislation.
Either way, the ideal solution here IS for congress to draft legislation. That is the only solution that'll be permanent, long term, and clearer to discuss (or dismiss) in courts.
In no way shape or form, is this AT ALL an urgent matter that they have to address by doing an Executive Order. As much as I'd love to have my iPhone unlocked, it ranks near to the bottom of what I'd like the President to focus his energy on, especially when signing Executive Orders that are supposed to actually carry weight.
If we want Obama to sign an executive order, then we must present a case as to why this is so urgent that it can't wait for Congress to draft legislation.
This is the best we could've hoped for, without really wishing that Obama was a dictator that could wave his hands and invent laws overnight.
Edit: I for one fully support what ChuckMcM says - at this point, we should contact our congressmen and tell them this is important to us, and that we want to see legislation drafted sooner rather than later.
The Executive branch can influence or request actions of Congress, and it sounds like they're trying to do just that. But they don't have a magic sword that can cut through bureaucracy, which it seems that many people are criticizing them for not having. :/
What this response indicates is that the Administration agrees with the petitioners on this issue, but not strongly enough to spend any political capital on it. Working the Hill in this fashion requires calling in favors, and a favor called in on cell phone locking is a favor that can't be called in on some other issue.
-Someone requests some completely common sense thing happen.
-Thing interferes with huge company making lots of money.
-Whitehouse says something like "while we agree with you, we wont do anything to help, cheers!".
Cool, thanks representatives of the people?
Congress represents the people. The Executive branch carries out the law enacted by the representatives of the people.
The leader of the Executive branch is really the most input people get into the Executive branch (and even what we have now is much more representative of a popular vote than what the Constitution's framers had originally intended).
Obligatory Disclaimer: No comment is herein offered on the merits of the positions of the Republican Speaker of the House or the Democrat President with regards to the recent sequester-deadline rigamarole.
The experienced cynic in me also says it would probably be the last time, as it would be a clear symbol to our many lobbies that this platform is a serious threat to their continued profit glut.
Responses are guaranteed after 10k signatures, which is a bit more achievable than the (current) 100k in the US. If they get to 100k then they have to be debated in parliament.
Highest number of signatures is for saving badgers. Which seems very English :)
Started by (now Dr) Brian May.
We as a people should not have to petition the White House to grow sense and pass sensible laws, in the way one petitions a monarch. This is the wrong way of combating the laws that come out of Congress thanks to lobbyist influence. It encourages the wrong mindset.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And that doesn't work either.
[edit: As pointed out below, my use of "literal" here is not as intended; by "literal definition" I was attempting to say "relevant definition" in the sense of the mechanism used by the We the People website.]
The analogy isn't perfect since the US doesn't have the same system of government and so petitions to the US government can't go to quite the same party or parties, but it's bizarre to claim without evidence that the plain sense of the word as used then and now isn't what's meant. The fact that the President is making it easier to gather signatures for a petition doesn't change the fact that they're requests to the government initiated by citizens, for the redress of grievances.
(Now if you are a Constitutional scholar, as say the current President is, I'd love to hear an argument as to why the straightforward meaning is wrong. Any such response would likely cite various Supreme Court decisions from the last 200+ years.)
You're certainly correct that they are petitions, though a petition in this sense matches petition in the general sense, as a request regardless of format.
I definitely am not a Constitutional scholar, though, and I appreciate the informative response.
I agree with this and I think you are being downvoted unfairly.
The "wrong mindset" is one in which you complain to the President/White House/Executive Branch any time "the government" does something you disagree with. The scope of what they can change when it comes to domestic law is very small.
When "the government" does something you don't like, the far better person to petition is your Congressman and Congress as a whole, the branch of government which passed this law (and all laws) in the first place.
On the other hand within this mindset what they can do is put pressure on other bodies. In this case it's pretty clear they are putting pressure on both the Library of Congress and the FCC. If either of those bodies take a step in the direction we want then it would be a much quicker process than going through the entirety of passing a bill through to being a law.
Something a lot of people seem to be passing is that bills are typically large behemoths when they go through the entire process. They can be sweeping an powerful but due to the process of committees they go through there are often unforeseen items tacked onto the bills in an effort to further various platforms (be they legitimate, pork, or lobbied).
I personally really appreciate the route the White House seems to be taking with this as it would prevent the muss and fuss of the entirety of Congress while potentially making for a quick and reasonable change.
Right. This is a solved problem. We have contracts for a reason: to establish and enforce obligations. Get rid of these ridiculous locks. Either that or harden them and get rid of contracts.
Then again, maybe it's just because Obama is a smartphone user. (Is he still using a Blackberry?)
I don't think you adequately addressed the larger issues raised by DMCA. Cell phones and tablet carrier locking is only one of the anti-consumer anti-user results of the law.
Not being able to install a different OS without illegal procedures such as "rooting" and "cracking" the device remain an outstanding issue for all ARM based devices. This limits competition and unfairly privledges the position of the device manufacturer over the user.
A device is a physical item. It is not rented it is sold. One should have full control over their own devices. Today, sadly, we (the people of the USA) are subject to an over-reaching law which prevents us from legally using our devices to their fullest potential.
As witnessed in the recent volatility of the tablet and smart phone market, commericial players come and go frequently. When they leave, they leave their customers stranded. With out a legal means to change the OS of their devices they are left with insecure outdated software which puts them, their employers and their family at risk.
Please consider expanding your approach to include a full range of consumer protections.
"And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network."
This makes it sound like unlocking a phone while you are still on contract would not be excepted.
Don't like that part of the agreement? Don't sign it, and pay the full price for the phone.
The special treatment is the DMCA, which forbids you from unlocking your phone regardless of the contract. This gives the cell companies an advantage by protecting a loss leader strategy: it is less risky for them to sell you a phone at a large discount which is locked, because it is illegal for you to unlock it whether or not you are under contract. It would be as if an airline sold you a discount ticket, and the law forbade you from having another company carry your luggage.
However, even if I continue to pay my monthly bill, as required by the contract, but I unlock my phone so I can use it in Europe, I am guilty of a felony.
I don't have a problem with that. The phone's essentially lease-to-own at that point.
As soon as the subsidy is paid - via monthly contracts or early termination fees - it should be unlockable.
You don't really own the phone until the contract that got you the phone is terminated. They agree to buy your phone for you if you agree to n-months of service.
...then why do you wind up paying sales tax on it?
(2) You are not taking out a loan on the phone. You are paying a discounted price for it in exchange for signing a contract for service. You bought the phone when you paid the sales tax.
Yes, but you must pay off your loan (the early termination fee) first and then you own the car and can sell it (i.e. as Obama suggested, after your contract ends).
Because if you travel, your contract provider will charge you extortionate fees. It's one of the ways they nickle-and-dime. You can get cheaper plans from foreign telecoms.
I also agree with the petition starter that the petition might prove to be a necessary condition to affect the change. It is too early to tell, but this is a good start.
I don't agree with anyone that claims that since a petition is not sufficient, it's a waste of time. That's just lazy fatalism.
Heck, even lobbyists start with conversations that don't go anywhere. The trick is what happens next, that might not have happened if not for the initial conversation.
The other day I downloaded a new programming framework and spent 30 minutes learning it, but it didn't turn into an award-winning website product. So clearly those 30 minutes were a waste of time I guess.
We never ever just say "we agree with you". It's always "we agree with you, and here's how Bob is going to fix this by March". I know that the political machine is much more complicated then a startup of 12, but they don't even try. After having read the whole thing, I'm left with no more understanding of where things are going than I did before I read it.
None of the entities with the legal authority to fix this problem work directly for the president. He cannot fire them because he doesn't like how they're doing their jobs, nor can they fire him for that reason.
There is one, and only one person with the unilateral legal authority to fix the unlocking ban. His name is James Hadley Billington.