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Biden Executive Order Could Significantly Impact Big Tech

US President Joe Biden has signed an expansive executive order with 72 initiatives aimed at promoting competition, encouraging growth and innovation, raising wages, and lowering prices for consumers. Many of the provisions are aimed at the tech industry—here’s a small sample of some that are relevant to TidBITS readers:

  • Calls upon the Federal Trade Commission to enact right-to-repair regulations
  • Encourages greater scrutiny of mergers, especially by “dominant Internet platforms”
  • Asks the FTC to establish rules on surveillance and accumulation of data
  • Bans early termination fees on Internet services
  • Lets hearing aids be sold over the counter at drug stores

The tech press has focused on the right-to-repair provision, which calls out cell phone manufacturers, along with farm equipment makers. Specifically, the order “encourages the FTC to issue rules against anti-competitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment.”

We’re generally supportive of right-to-repair (as is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak), but the devil is in the details. Would Apple be:

  • Required to replace pentalobe screws with regular Philips head screws?
  • Prohibited from using glue to seal products shut?
  • Obligated to publish detailed repair manuals?
  • Forced to sell parts to anyone who wants them?
  • Compelled to provide proprietary diagnostic and repair tools to independent repair shops?

Many of the executive order’s initiatives seem like steps in a positive direction. Still, it will likely take quite some time for the relevant agencies to come up with specific regulations, and those will surely lead to legal challenges that could take more time to shake out.

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Comments About Biden Executive Order Could Significantly Impact Big Tech

Notable Replies

  1. « The economy is booming under President Biden’s leadership.» First line made me feel like I was looking at an east block or Chinese statement from my youth back in 1970. :joy: Since I am a DIY guy I applause this.

  2. PR is PR everywhere and across all time. :slight_smile:

    But please, let’s keep the discussion focused on the meat of the executive order and what effects it may or may not have. If the discussion devolves into politics, I’ll cut hard.

  3. Then there will be a lawsuit over it…because anybody with 3 functioning brain cells knows what that means. No privacy period as a law enforcement back door will be cracked within days.

  4. Woz and Jobs did quite well with the little homegrown computer company they started in Steve’s parents’ garage. IIRC, HP, Google and Amazon started out as garage tech companies. And Zuckerberg in his dorm room. They did, and continue to do, great damage to the bottom lines of what was then considered to be untouchable competitors.

  5. One of those “proprietary diagnostic and repair tools” that Apple has includes mother board serializers, basically letting people change the serial number on their motherboard. Repair shops use this if they have to replace the motherboard in the computer. The new motherboard doesn’t have a serial number so they set it to the original SN. I can’t imagine it’s a good idea to provide those to anyone.

  6. Memories of the screws falling out the back of my old Sony Clié…

    I am glad right-to-repair is getting its long overdue time in the sun. For some time now it appeared that Apple has finely honed the lifespan-of-product : customer-desire-building ratio to perfection (from their bottom line’s pov). Where the kind of end of life, rejuvenation repairs/replacement seemed unnecessary or at least easy to ignore when for a few dollars more…

    TIme was (and not so long ago and I suspect still does for many folks) the parent’s devices moved down the family line but for many in the West, those tiers are well populated at this point. I’ve at least three old iPhones and one iPad awaiting the next time I get to drop them off at an Apple Store for Liam to disassemble. My last time doing that, the process was no more than a sales clerk handing me a form to fill in for each device. Which was, eh, annoying.

    I wonder if there’ll be some creative interpretations here, some upgrade paths or recycle paths that reward more heavily, this move by the WH might prompt that.

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