Paul and I hopped on Twitter Spaces this week to talk about what the latest congressional hearings mean for national right to repair legislation. Some key takeaways from the conversations were:
A National “Right to Repair” Bill Unlikely: There doesn’t seem to be enough of an appetite from lawmakers for there to be a push for national legislation soon. A split congress after the November midterms could make this more difficult.
Progress is coming, slowly: While these conversations are happening on more “obscure” subcommittees, there is much more interest from federal lawmakers than ever before.
Keep it simple: As is tradition with Congressional hearings, there was no shortage of semantics and minutia – but lawmakers seemed to connect most to right to repair when thinking about it in material terms (e.g. tractors breaking down). If we want people to connect with right to repair, we need to meet them where they’re at.
💬 What do you think it will take to see a national right to repair law in the US? You can comment or tweet at us.
Under capitalism, maintenance is an ambiguous position, almost a kind of limbo. The economics are rarely cooperative. There are plenty of carrots from a technical point of view — make things safer, more reliable, longer-lasting — but often no stick. In the developing world, sticks are everywhere. Cuba’s beautifully maintained mid-century automobiles owe their longevity to a cruel and arbitrary embargo. India’s long-standing repair culture is the byproduct of the country’s position at the bottom of the global supply chain, and even now is being undermined by rising incomes and consumption.
Maintenance could serve as a useful framework for addressing climate change and other pressing planetary constraints that, if left unaddressed, could recreate on a global scale the localized austerity of a cash-strapped transit agency. Indeed, maintenance as a concept could encompass both the built environment and the so-called natural world. Perhaps maintenance, rather than sustainability, is the more useful framework for a green transition, because it can account for how human infrastructure is now deeply entangled with the environment in the age of the Anthropocene.
Sustainability, and the climate discourse in general, fails to disentangle the built environment in this way. The built and unbuilt environment are treated as totalities caught in a zero-sum conflict. One barrages the other with smokestacks and landfills, the other retaliates with forest fires and flooding. Climate change becomes a hyperobject, bearing down on all of humanity at once, condemning and forbidding it. (NoemaMag)
Quebec’s Bill 64, an “Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, came into effect”, carries administrative fines as high as $10 million or 2% of the enterprise’s worldwide income for privacy violations.
The passing of this bill, and the August appointment of a new privacy commissioner is likely to tip other provinces towards taking similar measures or to get a vote passed on Canada’s Bill C-27, which would set even stricter standards and enforcement across the land. For the first time in Canada, we are talking about Spielberg Jaws-level teeth for privacy rules. And yes, you’ll need a bigger boat!
Aftermarket implications: The first implication for the auto service industry in Canada is an urgent warning to step up privacy practices, including always disclosing to its business and retail customers that vehicles contain personal information and always offer to help delete this personal information if the vehicle is going to be sold or handed off to a third party. (Auto Service World)
The Auto Body Parts Association (ABPA) announced that “Rich Rebuilds”, a prominent YouTube channel that focuses on automotive repair and general vehicle information, released a new video in support of the CAR Coalition, urging his 1.3 million subscribers to learn more about both the Save Money on Auto Repair Transportation (SMART) and the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act.
The ABPA says the SMART Act will restore balance to the auto body part patent process and reduce the costs of post-collision auto repairs and insurance for consumers by ensuring vehicle owners have more choices when they need to repair their cars. The REPAIR Act, the ABPA says, will reduce barriers it claims car companies are creating that limit consumer choice and increase the cost to repair and maintain vehicles. (Body Shop Business)
A new paper considers how practices of repair might contribute to addressing the issue of e-waste created from solar grid usage in the global south, and sets out a research agenda to facilitate new approaches to the issues of solar e-waste.
There has been a boom in the sale of small-scale off-grid solar products across the Global South over the past decade. A substantial portion of this boom has been driven by international investment in off-grid solar start-up companies, and a formalized off-grid solar sector has been established, with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association acting as a key representative body. Although this boom has aided in extending electricity access to many energy-poor households and businesses, an emerging concern is the short (three to four years) working life that these off-grid solar products typically have. This has led to a growing issue of solar e-waste.
Preliminary research indicates that local and informal repair geographies have emerged in response to the rise of solar e-waste. Local repairers—who often have existing business in electronic repair (for example, car batteries, radios and so on)—are often extending their work to include solar repair. However, the extent, distribution, capacity and current impact of local repairers in the context of solar e-waste is largely unknown. What kinds of off-grid solar product are ending up at local repair shops and how? What products can local repairers easily fix? What products do they struggle with and why? What gaps are there in terms of knowledge, tools and spare parts that curtail the potential expansion of local repair as a means to address SEW? Localized repair solutions to SEW evidently exist in some form in the Global South, but research is needed to understand the opportunities to augment and extend these repair geographies, networks and practices. (Nature)
The stories are out there. Farmers held up at a time of critical field operations because machinery needed, perhaps, a fairly simple reset of computer codes or minor repair, but it took hours for a dealership technician to get there to do it.
Northern Alberta farmer Cole Siegle has told his story a few times. Siegle speaking to Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions members last winter described how his combine sat idling for two hours until a dealership technician could arrive on the farm to diagnose the problem and reset the system.
Circumvention Legislation: Still in play, however, is another change in legislation proposed by B.C. MP Wilson Miao. The intent of Bill C-244, introduced in February 2022, is to amend the Copyright Act “in order to allow the circumvention of a technological protection measure in a computer program if the circumvention is solely for the purpose of the diagnosis, maintenance or repair of a product.”
“The bill is aimed at addressing copyright that is being used to stop Canadians from repairing and maintaining items that have been purchased and are owned by Canadians. It is a targeted bill that creates specific exemptions to copyright,” said Miao, as he introduced the bill in the House of Commons. “When an individual makes a purchase of an item, the owner should have a right to repair it and not be restricted by the manufacturer.” (Grain News)
If you poke around the internet, a motivated farmer could find hacked versions of the John Deere Service Advisor diagnostic-calibration tool; John Deere files required for programming and configuration of some machine parts; drivers that allow the computer to “communicate” with the tractor and you can find licensed key generators, speed limit modifiers and even special cables for connecting to tractors.
Farmers say they have to hack their own tractors, just to keep their gear running when they need it running and to not pay an arm and a leg for it. They say equipment that’s in constant use requires constant maintenance, and relying on dealer-approved technicians to diagnose issues that could be handled on the farm wastes valuable time, and of course, costs farmers cash. Now, hacking John Deere tractors has become something of a sport to people with tech skills and there is even a “Tractor Hacking team site” where the tech-savvy can pitch in.
Now, John Deere has somewhat softened its stance (perhaps US President Joe Biden’s executive order last July, directing federal agencies to encourage competition had something to do with it) announcing that in May farmers and independent repair shops would be able to buy through its online store a version of its Customer Service ADVISOR diagnostic service tool.
It said it would follow up in 2023 with “an enhanced customer solution” allowing owners and independent mechanics to download software updates to the machines from a Deere data network. (interest.co.nz)