YOU GOTTA FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO REPAIR
Eight states are mulling legislation that would thrill iFixit—and anger Apple
THE FIRST CAR I owned was a 1970-something Ford Maverick. When you opened up the hood, it was easy to do whatever you had to do—new plugs, new belts, oil change. Cars today are packed to the gills with circuitry and software. But that doesn’t mean they’re unfixable by anyone other than the manufacturer, despite what car companies would have us believe.
Such was the impetus behind Massachusetts’s Right to Repair ballot initiative of 2012, which voters approved by 86 percent to 14 percent. It gave car owners and independent repair shops access to the same diagnostic tools, repair manuals, and firmware that licensed dealers have.
Now lawmakers in eight states are pursuing legislation that would extend the concept to cover computers, smartphones, and tractors. “Repair is impossible without access and information,” says Gay GordonByrne, executive director of the lobbying firm Repair Association. One such bill was introduced in January by Lydia Brasch, a state senator for a rural district in northeastern Nebraska. She’s tired of driving 80 miles to Omaha—to the only Apple store in Nebraska— to get her computer fixed. Her husband, Lee, is a fifth-generation corn and soybean farmer who’s had similar issues with his $300,000 John Deere combine. ( John Deere, says Gordon-Byrne, is “the Apple of farming.”)
Apple, which did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story, is not happy with what’s happening in Nebraska— and Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Wyoming. Recently, the company sent a delegation to the state capitol in Lincoln to have a word with Brasch. Apple’s lobbyists were “respectful,” she reports. They offered to back off if she exempted smartphones. Then they tried to scare her, warning if the bill passed, Nebraska would be “a mecca for hackers and bad actors.”
But Brasch isn’t buying it. “How many billions do you need?” she wonders. “There should be a little piece of the apple for the rest of us to share.”