There's a lot to like about the White House's "We The People" petition process, in which Americans can submit questions and/or ideas, have the public vote for their favorites, and get an official response from the Obama administration. The White House recently raised the threshold for votes -- to get a response, a question or idea now needs 100,000 supporters -- but that was only to help weed out some of the more trivial issues.
It doesn't mean the "We The People" process will stop worthwhile matters from receiving official responses. In fact, just today, a petition created some actual news.
The White House today backed an Internet petition asking the Library of Congress to change its stance on the legality of smartphone unlocking.
In a post on the We The People blog, R. David Edelman, the White House senior adviser for Internet, innovation and privacy, said the administration agrees with those who signed the petition, and aims to support any legislation that would remedy the issue.
"The White House agrees with the 114,000 plus of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties," Edelman wrote. "In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smartphones."
Edelman's response added, "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. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs."
This strikes me as good news all around. The White House's newly announced policy strikes me as the right one, and the fact that the position was announced on a blog, following a popular petition process, makes the result that much more satisfying.
In terms of remedies, Edelman's piece said the administration is open to legislative fixes, encouraging private-sector providers to offer customers greater flexibility, and working through the Federal Communications Commission to promote more competition.