Right to repair: Why Nebraska farmers are taking on John Deere and Apple

“Nebraska is one of eight states in the US – including Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Wyoming, Tennessee and Kansas – seeking to pass ‘right to repair’ legislation,” Olivia Solon reports for The Guardian. “All eyes will be on the Cornhusker state when the bill has its public hearing on 9 March, because its unique ‘unicameral legislature’ (it’s the only state to have a single parliamentary chamber) means laws can be enacted swiftly. If this bill, officially named LB67, gets through, it may lead to a domino effect through the rest of the US, as happened with a similar battle over the right to repair cars.”

“Big agriculture and big tech – including John Deere, Apple and AT&T – are lobbying hard against the bill, and have sent representatives to the Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska, to spend hours talking to senators, citing safety, security and intellectual property concerns,” Solon reports. “Squaring up to the corporates are grassroots activists like Kevin Kenney, 52, who has spent months educating fellow farmers and pounding the corridors of the Capitol building to counter the lobbyists’ fear-mongering.”

“The combination of the agricultural repair with electronic goods repair makes Kenney nervous: he thinks it’s going to be a harder fight with the attention and lobbying clout of technology giants. ‘Apple is going to throw too much money at it,’ he said,” Solon reports. “State senator Lydia Brasch, who sponsored the bill, described a meeting with the Apple lobbyist Steve Kester. ‘Apple said we would be the only state that would pass this, and that we would become the mecca for bad actors,’ she said. The Cupertino-headquartered company also argued there was a safety risk associated having untrained people installing unofficial components, particularly lithium ion batteries – as demonstrated by Samsung’s Note 7 debacle. Apple also told Brasch that there were plenty of authorized repair shops to choose from.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Using authorized channels is the only way to ensure you are getting genuine Apple parts and that the repair will be done to the right specifications. With so many second-hand smartphones, for example, being sold and re-sold, how are buyers to know their battery is the genuine part and that it was correctly installed? How safe are would these smartphones be to have on airplanes, for example?

Certainly it can be dangerous to mishandle/damage lithium batteries during DYI repairs and the results can injure not just the repairer.

What if somebody’s half-assed DIY battery installation burns down an apartment building at 3am or sets fire to a plane in flight? When even Samsung can’t fix their own batteries correctly, we doubt every single Joe and Jane Sixpack would be able to manage a perfect battery installation every single time. It only takes one mistake to cause a tragedy.

As for farmers’ John Deere tractors with computers that aren’t user-serviceable, this would seem to create the perfect opportunity for someone to create a fully-user serviceable tractor – you know, like they had for over a century – and begin marketing that to farmers.

Right-to-Repair is ridiculous – February 16, 2017
Apple said to fight ‘Right to Repair’ legislation – February 15, 2017


      1. I meant to add that I don’t know why a law has to be written so broadly that it cannot make a distinction between product categories. In reality, not more than 1 in 1000 would like a mobile phone that has been produced with repairability as a priority.

      2. Not really. Electronic components are still discrete physical parts. Users used to be allowed to replace or add batteries, PCI cards, RAM, CPUs, or GPUs without hardly any special tools. Complicated devices of yore like CRT televisions had repair manuals so at least trained techs could keep them operable. Now manufacturers like Apple intentionally solder and glue those commodity components inside and refuse to offer repair information of any kind. There is no reason to do so other than manufacturers greed. it is wasteful and two-faced of a company to extoll its ecological credentials while accelerating the pace of landfill growth.

        1. Note: we are talking about phones, not computers; at least I am. I don’t recall any cell phone with a PCI card. Smart phones don’t get to be size they are by not integrating as much circuitry and components as is possible. In 2015 Apple sold 231 MILLION iPhones. You can’t assemble 231 million of anything without modern techniques that include adhesive fastening. Every iPhone I’ve owned has performed for years without any kind of service outside of a battery or screen replacement, which can easily be handled by many 3rd parties, or even oneself if you want. Go ahead and call it greed if you want to be cynical. I call it required manufacturing techniques to enable consumer design preferences and supply of demand. This 2017, not the pre-transistor era. If you are old enough to remember fixing CRT televisions you should be old enough to realize the magnificent achievement of being able to carry a computer as powerful as the iPhone in a pocket. I am seriously shaking my head at anyone that uses a slur like “two-faced” and makes an idiotic claim that iPhones are “accelerating the pace of landfill growth.”

  1. Mechanical objects are quite different from high-tech electronic devices. That said, every motor vehicle today is a mechanical computer hybrid: the electronics are so sophisticated you need a $100K piece of software just to do proper diagnostics. You want to replace an axel? Sure, be my guest. But there’s a computer in that there vehicle and there’s no way you’re going to be able to fix that by yourself (at least most people won’t be able to). I’m not sure what they hope to gain by this…

    1. The gain would be to provide the option for those not in ‘service areas’ of authorized repair shops. One way however that corporations could counter that argument is to provide a quick and cost effective way to submit their product for repairs or have the repair person visit the site and do the repair. Most people would rather have a trained person to repair a product. Usually when they go the DIY repair route, it is usually because the repair would be too expensive or too inconvenient to get access to a repair person.

  2. What is not being said is the main story. The charges are one way and not debatable. I would be angry paying $300 – $500 – $1000 for something that could be re-set for $50. People with automobile code readers are not damaging their cars, but are saving tons of money by repairing and even preventing dealerships and some auto-repair shops from double charging.

    When the owner of a $150,000 tractor knows what is wrong, he can and will call the dealer to fix it. KNOWING what is wrong helps in the decision as to down time. IF a problem arises that comes on a weekend, a farmer can be out hundreds of thousands of dollars if he can’t get his tractor or other fixed instantly. Wait until Monday to find out what is wrong and it has rained – the farmer will loose more than his profits for the year.

    I know of a farmer whose tractor locked up due to the electronics and would not let him do anything for several days. If I were to spend $150,000 and more on a tractor, I don’t want to wait on someone a 1000 miles away to release it the code so I can move it out of a field.

  3. I live in farm country (North, North Dakota). Both a John Deere dealer and IH Case are here in our small town (large shops). During planting and harvest, the dealers don’t close down on weekends, their repair guys and parts guys and heck whole new implement guys are basically on call 24×7 to get the seeds in, and the harvest out….

    although fixing your tractor, combine, etc is good – they now are *HIGHLY* technical machines, especially the on board computer systems that measure even the protein levels and bushel rates when combining the crop up…. as a tech guy it is totally fascinating to me….

  4. Apple doesn’t repair, it simply replaces entire logic boards or devices in many cases at an astronomic premium. It’s disappointing to see MDN shilling for Apple on this issue. Louis Rossmann, a legitimate electronics repair expert, destroys all of the fake arguments against ‘Right to Repair’: https://youtu.be/f4gsFe9kM-0 This has nothing to do with consumer safety, it’s all about money, don’t be blind.

    1. Very few electronic devices are repaired by component level replacements these days. It’s been standard practice to swap modules or boards in many industries for thirty or forty years.

      If you have a faulty ignition on a car, the garage will replace the entire circuit board rather than the resistor which burnt out. A failed washing machine gets a new control board instead of a new capacitor and you’ll have to look a very long way before you find a service shop to fix things like satellite navigation devices, toasters or printers.

      Most people simply wouldn’t pay a realistic fee to have things repaired by a professional, even if spare parts and diagrams were actually available. I sometimes perform component level repairs on equipment which is important to me so long as parts are available and sometimes I need schematic diagrams too, but it’s a labour of love, something akin to restoring a vintage car. The true cost of the work done wouldn’t make economic sense.

      I have seen audio studio mixing consoles that a decade ago sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars being sold off for scrap prices because spare parts can no longer be sourced. The components themselves are simply not manufactured any more. That problem has been happening with analogue consoles for many years, but now with digital mixing consoles it’s even worse because they depend upon specialised chips and components which ceased production some years ago and there is no generic alternative.

      It’s sometimes due to no spares being available and it’s sometimes about money. A simple component level repair might take three or four hours and although the part replaced only costs pennies, if the technician charges as little as thirty dollars per hour, you’re looking at a simple repair cost exceeding $125. Few people would spend $125 to repair something if a brand new replacement can be had for $200. Fifty years ago every town had multiple radio and television repair shops. There are hardly any repair shops still operating. These days you would struggle to cover your costs doing that sort of work.

      1. This is excellent, if I could give it 100 stars I would. Solid state electronics are both more difficult and easier to repair simultaneously. If they fail, swap out the component, and it usually works. But re soldering board components is not easy, and any person who is skilled enough to do this will not be cheap. And who’s to say if you’re going to DIY something and it kills someone, or fails again, that the manufacturer would be sued and not the person who repaired it incorrectly. This isn’t well thought out legislation, I think having cheaper diagnostic equipment for tractors and cars is a good thing though, and if it just pertained to that it would be a good thing.

        1. Voice of Treason to consumers. Check out my link above and any number of his videos. Soldering board components is not rocket science and can be much cheaper than Apple’s $799 replacement costs. For all the people railing about Apple ripping off its customers with over-priced products, it’s disappointing to see so many people carrying the water for the most valuable company in the history of the universe.

  5. Does anyone really care about what these midwest hillbillies think about Apple? Here in NYC, if I need help with my phone I just go to Apple’s fabulous 5th Avenue store. I doubt these hicks even know where their nearest dealer is so they use their slow-ass dial-up internet to access the Apple site on their rusty Windows XP box. No one cares.

      1. “Flyover country is tired of your bigotry of hardworking midwestern people.”

        Not only that: When your grocery stores run out of their maximum 3 day supply of food, you are going to have a civil war in your cities and don’t expect any help from flyover country.

      2. Unfortunately, AJ is as serious as a heart attack.

        With the exception of the left and right coasts, where she lives, all that lives in between are a bunch of hillbillies and the hell with them! Her own words, who cares?

        No wonder Trump won. Sounds like stereotyping bordering on RURAL RACISM.

        Comments going way back confirm she only cares about her world in the Bronx bunker. 🏢

        Nothing wrong with putting yourself first, but obviously to the exclusion and denigration of everyone else in the U.S. … very sad.

    1. What a narrow minded narcissistic idiot u are/sound like. Maybe people dont care about a moronic self involved city rats opinion. I know I dont..
      Go have an $8 coffee and step in front of a taxi..

    2. How DARE you insult the great state of Minnesota! The Land of 10,000 Lakes (How many lakes does New York City have, huh?) The home of the Mall of America, and the largest indoor theme park Nickelodeon Universe! (It’s not 1990s Nick, but it’s still nice) and home to Asperchu, the most intelligent comic series made by an Autistic man. (ME of course!) You take back what you said about the Midwest now you jerk!

  6. If you want super slim equipment you use glue rather than screws and paper-thin cables. I thought to replace my crap MacBook keyboard but when I looked at iFixit’s site I decided against it. I just put up with the keys that only work some of the time.

    I had an IT tech business for years and a technical workshop. We could repair a lot of devices but IBM and HP notebooks had to be returned for repair – they were considered too easy to damage. I think they were right.

    Apple could build a repairable phone but no-one would buy it.

  7. I feel like a lot of companies (the car industry is a great example) intentionally make their products hard to repair. Think of the iMac – want to swap your drive? (have fun pulling off the lcd panel). It would be nice if companies would try to design their products to be easy to repair, but I suppose it is also a liability issue in some cases.

  8. If you buy a car and want it serviced, you can work on it yourself or take it to any local service center, or take it to the dealer to be taken care of. Your choice.

    If you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new John Deere tractor, you do not own it. You have simply purchased an “implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle”. Owners are locked into agreements forbidding them from servicing it themselves or from the use of providers outside of the manufacturers network. They cannot even pull a code to determine that a belt is loose. Nothing like losing a years crop because you weren’t allowed to fix the tools you need to get the job done – and earn your money for the year.

    No, a $700 iPhone does not compare to a tractor. If your iPhone goes out, you can get another one. If your tractor goes out… well… do you have $150,000 to $1.5million sitting around for a new tractor – one with an undetermined delivery date for use on a crop with a small harvest timespan/window? I don’t. Let them fix them.

  9. Well said. I hope the bill passes at the very least applied to tractor farmers. They certainly need it more than iPhone owners.

    Living on the right coast, I had no idea this was an issue. Those Carhartt boys can maintain and fix just about anything living off the land for generations and certainly pride themselves on “Git ‘er done,”

    Fingers crossed the Packers green colored deer can run FREE out of the garage …

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