Right to repair, in NJ

Something you can use to contact your New Jersey senator and assemblymen and assemblywomen:

I’m one of your constituents and I’m writing to ask you to support the Right to Repair Act (Fair Repair Act, A4934) here in New Jersey.

Not too long ago, local TV repair shops were commonplace, evolved from near-ubiquitous radio repair shops. The premise remains simple: someone skilled in electronics could repair your radio or television safely, and return it to you for your continued enjoyment.

As our society has changed, so have our entertainment devices. We no longer have furniture with radios built into it, or televisions for that matter. Today’s devices are marvels of engineering, but no less a derivation of the RCA Victor in my great-grandparents’ living room.

Sadly, the United States has not evolved its legal structures with the same eye towards protecting consumers. Instead, protectionist bills and legislation repeatedly crop up in states throughout the nation, solely to protect incumbents and large corporations. To wit, “Right to repair”.

If you’ve been watching news concerning agriculture, you may have come across an issue directly harming America’s farmers. They buy tractors to work their land, but have no right to fix the tractor they’ve purchased. Keep in mind, these tractors can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, John Deere isn’t satisfied with hundreds of thousands of dollars; no, John Deere blocks farmers from buying replacement parts on their own, and installing them.

Now, John Deere may have a low opinion of the technical abilities of the American farmer, but that opinion is unfounded in fact. Never has this nation had a better role model for future engineers and MacGyvers than the American farmer. Farmers work in necessarily isolated parts of the country, away from large cities and distribution centers, because that’s where the crops grow. Being isolated forces you to plan, and adapt when plans go awry. We would not be the world’s bread basket if our farmers were not so adept at keeping their technology running in all circumstances.

So, imagine their frustration when they locate a part for a broken tractor, install it without issue, and discover that an authorized repair center has to unlock the tractor’s computer! This is akin to changing your spark plugs and having to go to a dealer and pay $75 for them to flip a switch. And by the way, that actually happens every time your low tire pressure monitors fail.

So, coming back to NJ, we find that even someone as low-skilled as myself, a computer scientist from Rutgers-Newark and NJIT, has managed to repair iPods, tablets, laptops, computers, lawn mowers, string trimmers, dishwashers, clothes dryers, automobiles, bicycles, and dining room tables, all without the manufacturer’s permission.

Why? Because I own the thing. No warranty in the world will make me as whole as a good brain and methodical approach to problem-solving. If I have the capability to fix my own mess, why shouldn’t that be allowed? Isn’t that quintessentially AMERICAN? Isn’t that a quality worth elevating, celebrating, and amplifying? Of course it is, don’t be silly.

The right thing to do here, is to say “no”, emphatically, to every single manufacturer who wishes to restrict freedom for profit. Manufacturers have no argument at hand that will withstand even a modicum of scrutiny from a recent engineering graduate (not me, I’m 25 years distant from college). Manufacturers are doing this for pure profit alone: they want the money for repairs, they want the money for a new produce, and they want us to pay for it all. Pay for the repairs, pay for the recycling and trash disposal. This is another version of regulatory capture that is entirely undeserved and harmful to your constituents.

The right thing to do here is to defend your constituents, your people, and not a corporation, not a manufacturer. Real, actual people. We’re counting on you. Don’t let us down.

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