The Right to Repair Battle Has Come to Silicon Valley
A California lawmaker is making the state the 18th in the country to consider legislation that would make it easier to fix your things.
Mar 7 2018, 10:25pm
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The right to repair battle has come to Silicon Valley’s home state: Wednesday, a state assemblymember announced that California would become the 18th state in the country to consider legislation that would make it easier to repair your electronics.
“The Right to Repair Act will provide consumers with the freedom to have their electronic products and appliances fixed by a repair shop or service provider of their choice, a practice that was taken for granted a generation ago but is now becoming increasingly rare in a world of planned obsolescence,” Susan Talamantes Eggman, a Democrat from Stockton who introduced the bill said in a statement.
The announcement had been rumored for about a week but became official Wednesday. The bill would require electronics manufacturers to make repair guides and repair parts available to the public and independent repair professionals and would also would make diagnostic software and tools that are available to authorized and first-party repair technicians available to independent companies.
Right to repair legislation has considerable momentum this year; 18 states have introduced it, and several states have held hearings about the topic. In each of these states, big tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, John Deere, and AT&T and trade associations they’re associated with have heavily lobbied against it, claiming that allowing people to fix their things would cause safety and security concerns. Thus far, companies have been unwilling to go on the record to explain the specifics about how these bills would be dangerous or would put device and consumer security in jeopardy.
It’s particularly notable that the battle has come to California because many of the companies that have fought against it are headquartered there. Apple, for instance, told lawmakers in Nebraska that passing a right to repair bill there would turn the state into a “Mecca for hackers.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation—which is notoriously concerned about digital security—has explicitly backed this legislation in California. Kit Walsh, a senior staff attorney for the EFF, said that the bill "helps preserve the right of individual device owners to understand and fix their property."
Given that tech employs so many people in California and has a more powerful lobby there than in, say, Nebraska or Wyoming, you’d think the bill might have more of an uphill battle in the state. But California actually has the strongest repair laws in the entire country; a law there requires companies to service electronics for at least seven years after it is released.
I’ve reached out to Assemblymember Talamantes Eggman and will update this post when I hear back.