CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Trade groups representing big tech companies clashed with independent repair shop owners in Monday committee hearing in the Nevada Legislature over a proposal to require hardware manufacturers give repair shops the means to fix devices like computers, phones, tablets and printers.
Whether government should require companies to provide independent shops — rather than just authorized dealers — access to the parts and schematics needed to fix devices is one front in a larger societal battle over how to regulate the technology industry as their products become more and more necessary in everyday life. It distills anti-trust policy debates down to how and where consumers can fix a broken smart phone and whether the companies that have transformed communication by producing them have a right to safeguard their intellectual property.
So-called “Right to Repair” bills, which are under consideration in 25 statehouses, are loosely based on a Massachusetts ballot initiative that voters approved last year to make car parts and plans available to repair shops.
Nevada’s bill would apply to consumer electronics worth less than $5,000 wholesale and exempt equipment used for gambling. Lawmakers in Nebraska have tailored repair legislation to agricultural equipment and farmers while California is considering requiring medical equipment manufacturers make available information on how to repair devices like ventilators.
Assemblywoman Selena Torres, a Las Vegas English teacher who once worked at a battery store that did repairs, said adding the requirement to state law would protect jobs in the electronics repair industry, enabling people to fix their devices locally rather than having to ship them to out-of-state manufacturers. She said she was sponsoring the bill to provide consumers more affordable repair options — something that’s particularly urgent as the pandemic has forced students and remote workers to rely on technology, she said.
The Clark County School District distributed tens of thousands of Google Chromebooks to facilitate distance learning, but it took months to ensure all students in the Las Vegas area had internet and device access, according to Nevada’s “ Connecting Kids ” task force.
“Early in the pandemic, a nationwide laptop shortage left millions of students unprepared for virtual learning. As an educator I saw firsthand how families struggled to share one device with several school-aged children,” Torres said. “The right to repair will give schools and other institutions the information they need to maintain equipment and empower the refurbished computer market, saving taxpayer dollars and improving digital access.”
TechNet, a trade group that lobbies for Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell and other device manufacturers, has mounted vigorous opposition to the repair bills in state legislatures.
Cameron Demetre, the organization’s regional executive director, said…