• ACA case could be bad news for Indiana

    Before the month is over, the Supreme Court will issue its decision in King v. Burwell, a major case that will drastically affect healthcare in most states. One of those states is Indiana.

    The case is pretty tangled in legalese, so I’ll try to explain it as succinctly as possible: Under the Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as “Obamacare”), citizens without insurance from an employer or by family extension must sign up for insurance themselves or incur a tax penalty. To help them find their ideal insurance plan, the federal government set up an insurance marketplace, or exchange, where people can shop around. The law intended for each state to set up its own exchange, as well, but so far most states have not, leaving the federal exchange as the only option for millions of people.

    Federal subsidies and tax credits aid insurance buyers in affording their plan. However, a legal challenge contends that the language of the law stipulates only the states can offer such subsidies, not the federal government. If the Supreme Court should side with them, all federal subsidies in states without their own marketplace will end, resulting in millions of insurance enrollees being unable to afford their plan. Almost literally, it comes down to the interpretation of the words “the state” in the law.

    Indiana, unfortunately, is one of those states without its own exchange, so things could get pretty bad for Hoosier ACA enrollees. Lower-income residents at least have the option of the Healthy Indiana Plan, but those who don't qualify will either be left with extreme sticker shock, or even worse, have no choice but to pay the penalty for being uninsured. Make no mistake, it’ll be bad if the Court strikes down those subsidies.

    The ACA isn’t the political hot potato it was as little as two years ago, and people everywhere are using it. For this reason, some are anticipating that some sort of fix could be made at the state or federal level, but so far the Republican Congress and state legislatures have been pretty vague on the subject. Here in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence has said he’ll wait for the Court’s decision to decide his course of action.

    It might seem hard to imagine an ideologue like Pence doing much to fix the situation. However, he did set up the Healthy Indiana Plan amidst pressure from the state and its healthcare workers over his party's orthodoxy. He could have more easily just taken the ACA’s guaranteed Medicaid expansion, sure, but instituting HIP as an alternative is better than simply leaving residents who could use such a program with nothing, which is what several Republican states have done. Also, several recent polls show his popularity has tanked in the wake of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Saving peoples’ healthcare and looking like the good guy on the eve of next year’s reelection campaign could be the shrewd political move he's looking for.

    But that’s all speculation. For the time being, all Hoosiers should keep an eye on the Supreme Court and their health insurance. Brace yourselves. This could get ugly.

  • Cori Mathis | Intellectual Property & Entrepreneurs

     Cori Mathis Intellectual Property Entrepreneurs

    Intellectual property are the ideas behind inventions, the artistry that goes into books and music, and the logos of companies whose brands we have come to trust . . . I believe it is enormously important that the United States remain a global leader in these forms of innovation – and part of how we do that is by appropriately protecting our intellectual property. 

    Victoria A. Espinel, the first U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

    Many people think of patents when they think of intellectual property; however, intellectual property is a much broader category of property rights. If you have ever identified a product or service by a brand name, created an original work of authorship, or developed and then kept information away from your competitors, intellectual property was at play.

    Intellectual property rights protect assets that are created, developed, designed, or invented, such as brand names, logos, slogans, books, music, computer software, machines, and confidential information. 

    Trademarks are words, designs, or a combination of the two that identify a product or a service and distinguish it from products or services offered by others. Strong trademarks identify source, indicate consistency, and are often one of a company’s most valuable assets. In the U.S., trademark rights begin when you use a mark in commerce to identify a product or a service. Trademark registration is available and often recommended for the many advantages that it affords trademark owners, but registration is not mandatory.

    If you choose a trademark  that is identical or substantially similar to a trademark that is already in use in the same industry, you may be infringing on someone’s trademark rights. Therefore, it is important to have a trademark clearance search conducted before you adopt a brand name, logo, or slogan. Checking to see if your proposed trademark is available as a domain name is an important step in a trademark clearance search, but it should not necessarily be the first step and certainly should not be the only step.  

    Copyrights protect original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Ideas are not copyrightable, but original articles, books, computer software, and designs may be. Copyright owners have a bundle of rights that they can exercise, including the right to copy, distribute, and license their work. Copyrights exist at the moment that a work is created and continue whether or not the copyright is ever registered. It is critically important to determine who owns a copyrighted work. Factors that are relevant in determining copyright ownership are who created the work and whether the creator was an employee, independent contractor, or bound by a written contract. 

    A patent is a monopoly on something that is useful, novel, and non-obvious. A patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their patented invention. There are utility, design, and plant patents. Unlike trademarks and copyrights, registration is required in order to obtain patent rights and patent applications must describe the the invention with sufficient detail so that one skilled in the art would be able to replicate the invention. 

    A trade secret is information that is sufficiently secret to derive actual or potential economic value from not being generally known to competitors. Trade secret protection may be available for customer lists, processes, research and development data, and know-how. Trade secret protection allows you to keep your information confidential, the protection lasts as long as the information remains confidential, and there is no government registration required or available for trade secrets. Conversely, patent applications require you to fully disclose your invention, patent rights can only be obtained through government registration, and patent protection generally lasts for only 20 years. Therefore, in some cases, companies must choose between trade secret protection and patent protection.

    An April 2015 article in The Indiana Lawyer cited a trend whereby businesses are viewing their intellectual property as their competitive advantage over the marketplace. Rather than compete on pricing, businesses want to distinguish themselves through innovation. I wholeheartedly agree with that trend and encourage innovators, entrepreneurs, and business owners in Northwest Indiana to identify, protect, and maximize the value of their intellectual property.

    #Local #intellectualproperty #attorney Cori Mathis presents at our #Meetup#law #nwIndiana #Chicagoland #trademarks #copyrights #patents

    Posted by Duneland Innovators on Friday, December 4, 2015

    Thank you to the Duneland Innovators group for allowing me to present on this topic at a recent Meetup. The people in attendance were dynamic and inventive. I appreciated the lively discussion that followed my presentation.

    This article should not be construed as legal advice nor does it form an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. 

  • Deconstructing the Governor's ACA response

    Last week, I discussed how things could get bad for Indiana residents should the Supreme Court rule against federal subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”). Well, scratch that.

    I had planned to talk about what state residents could do next in such a scenario. But since that didn’t come to pass, let’s instead just have some fun at our Governor’s expense, shall we?

    Here is Governor Mike Pence’s statement reacting to the Court’s decision, along with a few paragraph-by-paragraph thoughts:

    Governor Pence: “The Supreme Court's ruling in King v. Burwell is profoundly disappointing to me and every Hoosier who had hoped this ruling would give our nation the opportunity to start over on health care reform.”

    The ACA’s exchanges have been up and running for less than two years, and the law isn’t fully implemented. But the parts that have taken effect have reduced the uninsured rate, and are only gaining in popularity. It’d be one thing to scrap the whole thing if it were an utter failure, but only someone who wants the ACA to fail would call this a disappointment.

    GP: “Today's display of judicial activism by the Supreme Court upholds this deeply flawed law to the detriment of millions of Hoosiers who will continue to be subject to the mandates and taxes in Obamacare.”

    What the Governor does not state is, had the Supreme Court ruled against the subsidies, Hoosiers still would be subject to those same mandates and taxes. What would have changed is that they would get no federal aid and have to pay even more. And if he’s against the average citizen having to pay into an insurance program, why did he create the state’s Healthy Indiana plan that requires users to pay into it instead of simply taking the ACA’s no-strings-attached Medicaid expansion to which every state is entitled?

    As for the claims of judicial activism, the Court’s ruling reflected those of most of the lower courts who heard the same case. Also, Justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy have ruled on the side of conservatism on many other cases (despite being branded a traitor by conservatives in this case, Roberts dissented in the Court’s decision on same-sex marriage the very next day).

    GP: “ObamaCare must be repealed and states must be given the flexibility to craft market-based solutions focused on lowering the cost of health care rather than growing the size of government.”

    “Repeal and replace” has been the Republican soundbite for a while, but they never offer any solid info on a replacement, just conservative platitudes and buzzwords. Something tells me that if they really repealed it, they wouldn’t replace it and just wait and hope the public forgets about it in the news cycle. That might have worked a few years ago before the law started to take effect, but since people are now using it and would notice if it’s gone, that window’s probably closed.

    GP: “It now falls to the American people to elect new leadership in Washington, D.C. so we can repeal ObamaCare and start over with health care reform based on personal responsibility and consumer choice rather than government mandates and taxes. Indiana will continue to be a leading voice in advancing those principles in the national debate.”

    Considering Indiana’s last moment on the national stage under Pence was the RFRA, I very much doubt the country will be quick to look to our state for anything for a little while. But he is right that it’s up to the people to vote on new leadership. Unfortunately for him, it appears that Indiana’s desire for new leadership pertains specifically to his office.

    His statement suggests that my speculation last week about the Governor's potential actions to fix things if the subsidies were eliminated was probably wrong. I figured as much, but fortunately for the state’s ACA enrollees, their health insurance isn’t in his hands.

  • Despite SCOTUS ruling, bell might be tolling for death penalty

    The Supreme Court recently finished an eventful term, upholding the Affordable Care Act and legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. But one of the lesser-publicized cases is likelier to ignite much more debate in the years to come.

    One might recall the case of Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett, whose execution by lethal injection last year was stopped when the drugs he was administered (an experimental new mix of substances) failed to render him unconscious. He allegedly was in great pain for close to an hour before succumbing to a heart attack from the ordeal.

    In the case Glossip v. Gross, a group of death row inmates argued that this method constitutes cruel and unusual punishment (which is banned by the Eight Amendment) because the administered sedative midazolam fails to render the condemned unconscious, causing them to feel tortuous pain throughout their execution. The Court disagreed, however, ruling 5-4 that they couldn’t prove the drug’s use was cruel and unusual.

    Well, it certainly sounds like cruel and unusual punishment in this case. But a few of the dissenting justices went even further, suggesting that capital punishment itself violates the Eighth Amendment.

    At the legislative level, the death penalty is withering away, but slowly. It's been outlawed in seven states within the last decade, and not strictly along partisan or ideological lines. The most recent state was Republican-leaning Nebraska, whose state legislature voted to outlaw capital punishment and voted to override their Governor’s veto of the measure.

    In other states, both red and blue, it’s still business as usual. Right here in Indiana, a bill making murder by decapitation or attempted decapitation grounds for the death penalty was passed almost unanimously by the state legislature and became law at the start of the month.

    So it’s very significant that the school of thought which considers capital punishment a violation of criminals' constitutional rights made it into the legal conversation of the highest court. Even though it lost before Court this time, it’s probably not going away. If it gains momentum in jurisprudence, we might one day mark this as the beginning of the end of capital punishment in the U.S.

    Should that happen, it would be a good day for human rights. More than any other factor in the argument against capital punishment—its inconclusive effect as a deterrent, the cost of executions, the fact that innocents can sometimes be executed—it all comes down to the fact that no government, federal or state-level, should have the right to dictate who lives or dies.

    Lockett was convicted of some horrible things, no question. It’s admittedly hard to sympathize with him. Or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or Timothy McVeigh, or anyone who would mutilate another human being as described by Indiana’s new law. But for comparison, if we truly value free speech, we must also defend and tolerate speech with which we disagree or find offensive or vile. Similarly, if the right to live is truly inalienable, then it must also apply to the worst among us.

  • It's time to talk about drug policy reform in Indiana

    In 2014, in response to a growing heroin problem, some Porter County police began carrying naloxone, a drug that curbs the effects of opioid overdoses. Now, with heroin-related deaths in Lake County numbering in the dozens over the last three years, the county is considering equipping their police with naloxone kits.

    Last year, you might also recall, saw an HIV outbreak downstate caused by needle-sharing. This resulted in the establishment of the state’s first needle exchange program.

    These actions by the state and local authorities are the right things to do. Still, they are responses to problems becoming too big to ignore, as opposed to a solution that fixes the overall problem. Indiana’s drug laws are still firmly of the mentality of the old War on Drugs, a policy that seems to have less proponents every year.

    In creating the needle exchange, Governor Pence and Republicans swallowed their strong anti-drug stance and acknowledged such a measure was necessary. That was a good start, but this opportunity should be taken to address major drug policy reform as a whole, specifically treating drug use as a crime instead of a health issue.

    We wouldn’t be the first state, either. One of the most high-profile states to do so was New Jersey, which replaced prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses with court-ordered treatment. Notably, this change had bipartisan support in the state and was signed into law by Republican Governor and current Presidential candidate Chris Christie.

    It might be early to judge New Jersey’s success or failure. However, the country of Portugal notably reformed their drug policy top to bottom in 2001. The results weren’t perfect (no policy is, really), but certainly much more effective than a hard-line drug war.

    In New Jersey, treatment for one person costs about half that of incarcerating them. But more than saving tax dollars, it’s simply more humane to treat an addict and give them another chance at life, rather than locking them away and forcing them to live with the stigma of a felony conviction when they leave prison.

    I doubt you’ll see much debate about this subject in this Indiana’s gubernatorial campaign this year, but it’s a conversation that should be had.

  • Lake County polling goes to court

    In light of all the candidates jumping into the 2016 Presidential race, let me take the opportunity to urge my fellow residents of Lake County to pay attention to a case currently before the Indiana Supreme Court: State of Indiana v. John Buncich.

    A little background: Senate Enrolled Act 385, passed by the state legislature, requires a study on consolidating Lake County voting precincts that cater to 500 voters or less. The law is ostensibly aimed at making the polling process more efficient.

    The law was struck down by the Lake County Circuit Court for violating the State Constitution, which prohibits passing local or special laws related to elections, among other things. The case went before the state Supreme Court on Thursday, which is set to rule on it.

    The law applies only to Lake County, proponents claim, because it has a high number of such small polling precincts. However, plaintiff John Buncich, Lake County Sheriff and Chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party, argues that the law would make voting more difficult for Lake County residents.

    Buncich is not wrong to be skeptical. The last half-decade or so has seen the rise of voter ID laws in several Republican state legislatures, supposedly to ensure voter integrity, even though the extent of “voter fraud” is beyond minuscule (Indiana passed such a law before the slew of other states followed through). Such laws have disproportionally made voting more difficult for poor and minority voters in those states. And a lot of those same states have also cut down on early voting programs and restricted voting hours.

    Is the law aimed at Lake County a similar attempt by a Republican legislature to place voting obstacles on a strongly Democratic corner of the state? To be fair, Lake County’s turnout in last year’s election was only 27 percent, so maybe it is just about streamlining the process. I’d at least like to think that the Republicans' reasoning is out of practicality, not a partisan move to limit democracy for their benefit.

    But even if they are acting in good faith, I’m still against such polling place consolidation. I believe citizens should be given every opportunity to vote. If that means several precincts that cater to a relatively smaller number of people, so be it. The cost of keeping those polling places running is a small price to pay for democracy.

    However the Court rules in this case, all Lake County Residents planning to vote should pay close attention to their registration status and their assigned polling place. There’s still plenty of time to get everything in order before next year’s primaries and elections.

  • Left lane legislation lunacy

    We’ve all heard of the nanny state, passing laws for our protection whether we like it or not. Well, brace yourselves for its party animal cousin, the “bro state.” 

    You might not have heard the term (as far as I know, I just now made it up), so allow me to explain: Like so many quintessentially “bro” things (eating mountains of chicken wings, drinking contests, staying out all night partying during the workweek, racing your midsize sedan down suburban streets), the bro state appeals to the more primal instincts in every male. And also like those things, no matter how bad the idea is when you actually think about it, the bro state is going to do it anyway.

    The bro state has made its mark in Indiana, in the form of the state’s new left-lane law. Basically, the law stipulates that drivers in the left lane of interstate highways must change lanes to allow vehicles going faster than them pass, even if that vehicle is speeding. Failure to do so could warrant a $500 fine.

    So starting July 1, keep that in mind if you’re getting on I-65 to go downstate, or are heading east on I-80 or I-94 (it’s not a huge problem if you’re headed west, as left lanes become turn-only lanes once you cross into Illinois). Even if you’re driving the speed limit or the unwritten but acceptable few mph above it, and the guy coming up behind you is a reckless speed demon, it’s still your responsibility to get over and let them pass. In effect, Indiana has put speeders in the right.

    This is but a taste of the havoc the bro state could unleash on the Hoosier State. Soon, speed limits could become speed minimums, followed by the advent of speed cameras like our neighbor in Illinois, but instead used to punish those who drive too slowly. Then, not only will more environmentally friendly vehicles be banned, but the obnoxious practice of coal-rolling will be made mandatory…

    Okay, maybe my paranoid imagination is overreacting. But this is still a stupid law. If someone’s driving dangerously slow on the highway, I could see that warranting a ticket, but people observing the speed limit should not be punished and certainly not have to yield to reckless drivers who are breaking it.

    We’ve all come across cars going slow on the highway. And we’ve probably passed them, left them behind, and continued on our trips without a second thought. We don't need laws legislating etiquette on the highway or elsewhere that puts irresponsible actions like speeding in higher legal standing.

  • Liquor on Sunday will do no harm, stats show

    Indiana might finally do away with an archaic law that’s long outlasted the enthusiasm for its enforcement.

    Are you ready for this, fellow Hoosiers? Pretty soon, Sunday liquor sales might be coming to our state!

    True, you could still buy drinks at a bar or restaurant any day of the week. But Indiana is one of 12 remaining states that still cling to old blues laws forbidding the sale of alcohol in stores on Sunday. So if you want to buy any beer or spirits to take home, you better do your shopping between Monday and Saturday.

    For now, at least, although that might change because the Indiana House passed a bill allowing Sunday sales last week. Currently, the bill is still being debated and amended in the statehouse.

    College students and party animals might rejoice if this bill becomes law, but I doubt life will change much in the Region or the state as a whole. It won’t hurt, though, for when I say little will change, that includes changes for the worst.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, Indiana is on the lower end of alcohol-related deaths per year. It’s also about average on the annual tally of drunk-driving deaths, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Some of the other 11 states with no liquor on Sunday have similar statistics to Indiana, though some are worse. Also, some states that do allow liquor have low rates in both studies.

    The old saying goes “correlation is not causation,” but there’s not even a consistent correlation. And frankly, it seems unlikely that one more day of sales will drastically alter the statistics in Indiana.

    What will change is grocery stores will move more inventory, and liquor stores will get one more day of sales. And that wouldn’t just mean more in-state buyers. As every Northwest Indiana resident knows, the closer you get to the state line, the more liquor and tobacco shops you see because they’re taxed so much more in Illinois. So, liquor stores would likely see the most benefit from more business.

     

  • Search and seizure heads to IN Supreme Court

    The Indiana Supreme Court decided to hear a notable case last week. Unlike the case I already discussed in my last post, this one’s outcome is sure to have further-reaching effects than just our corner of the state.

    Garcia v. State centers on Antonio Garcia, who was pulled over and arrested on the misdemeanor charge of driving without a license in 2012. While being searched during his arrest, the police found a small container, which they opened to find a hydrocodone/acetaminophen pill. This painkiller is considered a controlled substance, possession of which without a prescription is a felony.

    Garcia testified that he had found the pill among a recently deceased family member’s effects, and carried it with him so his child wouldn’t find it. Though he was able to produce prescription records indicating the family member did, in fact, have a prescription for the drug, he was still convicted of felony possession.

    The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned that conviction on the grounds that it violated the Indiana Constitution’s stipulation against search and seizure. Specifically, the ruling stated that the container aroused no reasonable suspicion or threat to the arresting officers, therefore searching it violated Garcia’s Constitutional rights.

    The Indiana Supreme Court will have the final say, though a decision probably won’t come until next year.

    Before trying to tie this case in to high-profile police and civil liberties controversies of recent years, one should take a closer look at the facts. While Garcia contends that regular search and seizure protocol went too far, he isn’t contesting his misdemeanor charge or alleging grave officer misconduct. The arresting officers also testified that Garcia was cooperative. And in fairness to the police, similar medicine containers frequently are used as containers for illegal drugs. So this case occupies a grey area.

    Personally, I’m leaning toward the side of Garcia, not due to any personal biases, but because if I have to choose a side, I always choose the one of civil liberties.

  • Social Media's Day in Court

    For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case on free speech on social media. The events that led to this case being heard, however, are not pleasant.

    It began when Pennsylvania resident Anthony Elonis made a series of violently worded posts on Facebook, seemingly directed towards his estranged wife. The FBI arrested him for violating federal laws against making threats toward another person. A jury convicted him, finding that his posts could reasonably be interpreted as legitimate threats, and Elonis was sentenced to 44 months in prison.

    Elonis, however, argues that his posts weren’t meant to be taken seriously, and compared his words to violent lyrics and fantasies in songs (his posts were written in a sort-of rhyme scheme). They are protected speech, he contends, because he never specifically intended to act on them. The outcome of Elonis v. United States, which was argued before the Supreme Court today, will determine that.

    The implications of this case are big simply because it’s the first one pertaining to social media. It also hits a little closer to home for Indiana, as it bears some similarities to a case of a man arrested and convicted in Dearborn County of threatening public officials online. Despite support from free speech advocates across the political spectrum, the Indiana Supreme Court declined to overturn his conviction, then rejected an appeal of that decision.

    It’s harder to say what the outcome of Elonis will be. Any high school journalism teacher will tell you that there are, in fact, limits to free speech, and that making threats is not protected by the First Amendment. But in addition to Elonis’ defense, experts are saying social media is a whole new ballgame. The case and judicial interpretations could somehow be affected by the medium’s features, like emoji.

    This probably won’t be the last word on free speech on social media, and maybe not even the last word on threatening or bullying through social media. But, social media’s status as speech has always been murky. The outcome of this case will at least bring some clarity.

  • Sunday Alcohol Sales Ban: A Retrospective

    Indiana Sunday Alcohol Sales Laws

    As Hoosiers, we are well aware of the ban of alcohol sales on Sundays.  Last February, it looked as if the law may finally change, but the measure met its usual fate.  Although Sunday sales were backed by big-box grocery stores such as Walmart and Kroger, the measure was opposed by liquor store owner. They have argued that the costs of being open on Sundays would not provide enough additional revenue [1] and that allowing sales on Sunday would put liquor stores in danger of going out of business [2].  The bill also died due to the restrictions that the state wanted to put on displaying alcohol and its placement in stores.  Liquor would have had to have been kept behind a counter and beer would only be allowed in designated areas [3].  As a result of these restrictions, the measure lost favor from big box stores, due to the costs of remodeling to accommodate these requirements.  

    So how did Indiana become one of 12 states to ban sales on Sundays in the first place?  The ban on Sundays is what is known as a “blue law”.  A blue law is a kind of law that prohibits certain activities occurring at certain times [4]. This particular blue law has been in place since the end of prohibition in 1933. These laws are also a sign of their times.  For example, one blue law that was enacted in Illinois banned the sale of ice cream sodas on Sundays, because soda was actually considered a controlled substance in the late 1800’s, due to it being marketed as a “miracle cure” [5].  For soda jerks to remain open on Sunday, they added chocolate syrup in lieu of soda, hence the invention of the Sundae.

    Although frustrating to many people in our state, sales in restaurants, bars and microbreweries are not banned on Sunday. A 2010 law allowed microbreweries to sell Sunday carryout beer, provided that the beer is brewed on that site [6]. For around $11, anyone of legal drinking age can purchase a growler (64 ounces) of beer to take home with them.  Since this time, many new microbreweries have opened around The Region, including 3 in Valparaiso.

    In a time when many households, such as ours, have both a husband and wife who work full-time, something as simple as going to the grocery store can become complicated. Since Sunday is also one of the busiest shopping days of the week, some opt to do their shopping on this day, but may have to make an extra trip on a different day to purchase alcohol. So the question now becomes is this blue law still going to be able to remain in place for the foreseeable future? Once again, we will have to wait until next year.

    References:

    [1] http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/indiana/2015/02/24/indiana-lawmaker-kills-bill-legalizing-sunday-alcohol-sales/23947273/

    [2] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/19/indiana-strict-on-sunday-booze/1566476/

    [3] http://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2015/02/24/sponsor-sunday-alcohol-bill-enough-votes/23930769/

    [4] http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Blue+Laws

    [5] http://xmb.stuffucanuse.com/xmb/viewthread.php?tid=7396

    [6] http://www.wndu.com/home/headlines/Breweries-booming-with-Sunday-business-264184251.html

     

  • Unlocking Cell Phones Opens Few Consumer Doors

    If you still use landline phones, changing phone companies doesn’t require buying a whole new telephone system for your residence or business. So why should switching to a different wireless carrier mean having to get a brand new device? That’s the logic behind the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which had the rare distinction of passing both houses of this particularly gridlocked Congress and getting signed into law by President Obama.

    The bill makes it legal for consumers to unlock their phones at their will. What does that mean, exactly? Generally, a wireless phone will only work with the provider to which it’s first programmed, and isn’t capable of switching to a new provider (for example, a phone bought from Sprint may not work if the owner decides to switch to Verizon). The phone is said to be “locked” to the provider. “Unlocking” the phone means providing a code that will allow it to work on a new provider.

    Before this bill, it was illegal to unlock the phone without a provider’s permission, but now the consumer can do so at their leisure. The passage is being hailed for its implications for consumer choice and extending the lives of devices. But on closer inspection, does this change a whole lot from a consumer standpoint? I’d say no.

    You’d think the wireless providers would be against this bill, but there’s a conspicuous absence of their input in any reporting on this debate. Dig a little deeper, and it’s clear why: even before this bill, providers were in fact quite receptive to consumers looking to unlock their phones. If anything, this bill just cuts out the middleman and makes their job easier.

    Also, different providers don’t necessarily use the same technology, so simply unlocking a phone may not be sufficient to switch. If the goal was to give the consumers unlimited choice, the law would also have to set specific technological standards for every device. That’s unlikely to happen.

    I still think this was a good idea, as it makes changing cellular service a lot more convenient. But a major, sweeping consumer reform this is not.