Episode 160 Right to Repair’s Summer of Love – Sort of.

In this week’s episode of the Podcast, # 160: call it Right to Repair’s “Summer of Love.” Summer 2019 saw developments on a number of fronts in the nation-wide battle to win a digital right to repair. In this podcast, we talk with Nathan Proctor of US PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign and Kyle Wiens of iFixit about the developments.

Summer is typically a slow time, but for those in the trenches of the struggle to create a digital “right to repair,” the Summer of 2019 was anything but sleepy.

Following a legislative  season in which 20 states brought forth right to repair legislation, with almost all encountering stiff opposition from industry, this summer brought glimmers of hope. In July, the Federal Trade Commission hosted a workshop dubbed “Nixing the Fix” that delved into industry restrictions on repair. Then, in August, right to repair advocates (including yours truly) traveled to Las Vegas to speak as part of Ethics Village at the annual DEF CON hacking conference.

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Nathan Proctor U.S. PIRG
Nathan Proctor heads up the national Right to Repair campaign for US PIRG

In the headlines, August saw Apple on both sides of the repair divide. First, the company was excoriated for disabling battery health monitoring features on iPhones that had batteries replaced by non “authorized” Apple repair technicians. That highlighted what repair advocates warn are increasingly aggressive moves to block independent and owner based repairs and servicing on the Cupertino, California company’s products.

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Paradoxically, it was Apple that just days later delivered an unexpected victory to repair advocates when it announced, last week, that it was launching an Independent Repair Provider program and would begin selling Apple parts to independent repair shops that were not part of its authorized service providers program. (That program may be less than it appears, but more on that in the podcast.)

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Kyle Wiens is the CEO of iFixit
Kyle Wiens is the CEO of iFixit

This left us here at the Security Ledger wondering: what just happened? And, with 2019 drawing to a close: where do things stand with the right to repair? Is Apple’s end of summer decision on replacement parts the beginning of the end of resistance to a digital right to repair or, as Winston Churchill mused, is it merely the “end of the beginning” in the battle to secure a digital right to repair. 

To sort it all out, we invited two noted right to repair advocates into the Security Ledger studio to talk about the developments: Nathan Proctor is the coordinator of the national right to repair campaign for the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG). We also welcomed back Kyle Wiens, the founder of repair site iFixit and a member of the Repair Coalition. 

To start off, I asked Nathan Proctor about Apple’s announcement last week that it was launching a program to provide Apple certified parts to independent repair shops.

As always,  you can check our full conversation in our latest Security Ledger podcast at Blubrry. You can also listen to it on iTunes and check us out on SoundCloudStitcherRadio Public and more. Also: if you enjoy this podcast, consider signing up to receive it in your email. Just point your web browser to securityledger.com/subscribe to get notified whenever a new podcast is posted.