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New Bill Makes It Easy To Transfer Cell Phones To New Carriers

Sen. Patrick Leahy joined an unlikely group in Burlington today to show off his new legislation that will make it easier for used cell phones to work on a variety of cellular networks.

At the Women Helping Battered Women offices in Burlington, Leahy introduced women’s advocates and a telecom official to speak about the new bill, which he said will help shelters like the one in Burlington.

Leahy said the new law will help shelters use donated phones to pass out to women in need.

“It’s going to encourage people to donate their cell phones and their used cell phones,” Leahy said, "And if people will donate them … they can be set up so that they can be given to people who may be in danger in a way that they can call 911 if they need to. For many of the women who are going to get it, the cell phone can be a lifeline.”

Karen Tronsgard-Scott, executive director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the organization currently gives about 100 phones per year to its clients. She said more donations could help the network give phones to more of the 8,000 women it serves.

It wasn’t clear how much the bill would increase donations of cell phones to community service organizations.

The other winners, according to Vermont Telephone Company President Michel Guite, are cellular customers who can now easily transfer their phones from one network to another – and the small cell companies they might transfer to.

“You can buy a lower cost service from 100 different providers in most of the world, and cut your costs in half,” he said, referencing high rates of competition driving prices down in other nations’ wireless markets.

Guite said Leahy's legislation would help foster competition in the U.S. as well, bringing those models more in line with other world markets.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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