For years we’ve discussed the need for better and stronger “right to repair” laws in the United States. Were one to look for a pure example of legislative capture by corporate interests, it’s hard to think of a better example than the way hardware makers of various stripes have managed to lock their own hardware behind various flavors of DRM and/or warranty restrictions to make it illegal for a person to get the thing they bought repaired. Arguing that such repairs fall within the scope of anti-circumvention laws, these hardware makers, including those of smartphones like Apple, have attempted to construct a world in which people don’t just own what they bought, but are rather forced to continue to buy things they don’t own when the hardware is damaged or fails them.
Despite how ridiculous this all is, few states have even attempted to enact right to repair legislation, in large part due to corporate lobbying efforts. One of the latest to make the attempt was New Hampshire, except that the bill was blocked by representatives who apparently look to the legend of Marie Antoinette as some kind of a guidebook.
The bill would have forced manufacturers such as Apple to share repair manuals and parts with independent repair stores. House members didn’t kill the bill, but sent it back to committee for a year of interim study, citing security concerns and, in the words of Rep. John Potucek (R-Derry) the ubiquity, cheapness, and—in his opinion—disposability of new smart phones.
“In the near future, cellphones are throwaways,” Potucek said, according to New Hampshire Business Review. “Everyone will just get a new one.”
Everyone? Nobody would want to repair their cellphone rather than spending the $700 to $1000 on a new one? The phrase “let them eat cake!” is said to be incorrectly attributed to Marie Antoinette, but we can certainly attribute “Cellphones are throwaways!” to Potucek. It’s an absurd rebuttal on many levels, not simply that cellphones certainly aren’t priced to be thrown away at the first sign of hardware trouble.
There is also the simple fact that people having to get a new phone when theirs malfunctions is exactly the problem this legislation is attempting to address. It’s the device version of, “Why attempt to give children healthcare? Parents can just make another baby!” It also ignores that a huge reason companies like Apple lobby so heavily against these laws is so it can monopolize the repair market, purposefully making it so expensive that buying new devices is the only real option.
The comments also ignore just how many New Hampshire residents are already seeking to repair their devices.
“At our three locations throughout [New Hampshire], we serve tens of thousands of our neighbors and visitors each year,” Chad Johansen, president of NH iPhone Repair, said in an email. “Many of our customers are happy with their devices and would rather spend $100 to fix their current device instead of $1000 for a new one with little to no updates or added features. Now the [manufacturers] such as Apple and Samsung are making it harder for residents of NH to repair the devices they own.”
For purely greedy corporate interests, too. There is not a single thing about blocking this bill that benefits the NH resident. The only beneficiaries here are hardware manufacturers focused on stock prices that move with the waves of phones going out the company doors.
The tone-deaf comments aside, it would be nice if Potucek could articulate a single reason in the interest of the New Hampshire citizen for blocking this law. My guess is he cannot possibly do so.
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