‘Right to Repair’ has hit Pa. Here’s why it could be the next, big legislative fight | Wednesday Morning Coffee

November 13, 2019 7:14 am

Emma Horst-Martz, of PennPIRG, (L) and Tim Menzer (R), of Ephrata, Pa., speak during a Capitol news conference on Tuesday, 11/12/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If you’re like most fans of this daily update, there’s a decent chance that you’re reading it on your mobile phone. It’s the digital buddy you’ve come to depend on to keep in touch with friends, order dinner, book a flight or concert tickets, and pay your bills — among countless, other life-maintaining needs.

Now consider what would happen if you dropped it and inflicted possibly catastrophic damage: Would you have access to the knowledge or the tools to repair it on your own?

The answer is most likely not. Which means you’d find yourself making a trip to the local Fruit-Flavored Computer Store or a third-party repair shop to coax your digital third limb back to life through an expensive fix. Or, worse, you’d be looking at shelling out some hefty coin for a replacement gizmo.

Finding a third way around that existential digital terror is at the heart of an emerging grassroots movement among techies known as ‘The Right to Repair.’ And it’s all about breaking the death grip that Silicon Valley has over the tools, schematics and software that consumers need to make such fixes on their own.

“People don’t know they can fix things,” Tim Menzer, the owner of Menzer Repairs, in Ephrata, Lancaster County, said during a Capitol news conference on Wednesday, advocating to have Pennsylvania join the ranks of about 20 states that  have considered legislation requiring manufacturers to give consumers that kind of freedom.

(Image via Flickr Commons)

Advocates from the consumer advocacy group PennPIRG said Wednesday that the organization hopes to introduce such legislation in January. And it’s more than hypothetical.

According to the group’s research, some 2.3 million Pennsylvanians logged onto the web fix-it site to look for information on fixing such common devices as smartphones, laptops and tablets. But often, they came away frustrated, finding that tech monopolies prevented them from getting their hands on the stuff they needed to make the fix.

“Pennsylvanians want to fix their stuff. After all, repairing an old device instead of buying a new one cuts waste and saves money,” PennPIRG’s Emma Horst-Martz said. “But too often, consumers are stymied in their repair efforts because manufacturers won’t provide access to spare parts, repair software or service diagrams.”

A new PennPIRG report finds, among other things, that six of the 10 most popular manufacturers don’t provide either spare parts or technical service information. Which is particularly on point because the most popular repair searches included battery and screen replacements.

(Image via Flickr Commons)

And tossing old tech in favor of new stuff has real-world environmental implications in the form of eWaste. As PennPirg points out on its website, American consumers throw away an eye-watering 416,000 cell phones every day. And only 15 to 20 percent of electronic waste is eventually recycled.

“People need to be educated more,” Menzer said Wednesday. “The right to repair is very important.”

The issue’s gotten some national traction as well, with U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.raising it on the 2020 campaign trail, the tech website Gizmodo reported.

“Manufacturers have made repairs difficult, if not impossible,” Horst-Martz said Wednesday. ” … We must require manufacturers to provide affordable tools and information to consumers.”

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Our Stuff.
The AP dropped a bomb on Tuesday afternoon, reporting that the FBI had opened an investigation of the way the Wolf administration awarded permits for a natural gas pipeline. Here’s our synthesis of that reporting.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s remarks Tuesday in a radio interview about the future of petrochemical plants in western Pennsylvania has reopened an old wound between progressive and moderate Democrats in the region, Stephen Caruso reports.

Skeptical conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court seemed sympathetic to Trump administration arguments Tuesday in favor of ending the DACA program, Capital-Star Washington reporter Allison Stevens reports.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: A 29-year-veteran of the state Auditor General’s Office is mounting a Democratic campaign to succeed outgoing Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. The Tribune’s Chanel Hill brings us this look at how one southwest Philly school is innovatively working to prepare its students for life after high school. And police widow Maureen Faulkner wants Philly DA Larry Krasner off Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal.

On our Commentary Page this morning, the Pa. Budget & Policy Center’s Diana Polson says the state should greenlight a proposed community college in Erie. And an advocate for the Pa. pharmacy industry says pharmacy benefit managers are driving up drug prices.

Photo via pxHere

The Inquirer
 looks at how schools are using impeachment as a real-time chance for education.
Republican Heather Heidelbaugh, a former member of Allegheny County Council and a Pittsburgh attorney, has launched a 2020 bid for attorney general, the Tribune-Review reports.
So the good news is that the Harrisburg schools aren’t broke, but the district’s financial state is pretty direPennLive has the details.
Officials in Northampton County have discovered “hundreds” of uncounted votes, raising more questions about the way the 2019 was election was handled, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Former residents at Hahnemann Hospital are fearful that the hospital’s bankruptcy will leave them without malpractice insurance, WHYY-FM reports.
Some 2,500 people may get late unemployment checks because the state wasn’t able to process claims for four days, WITF-FM reports. explains the changing politics of Medicaid expansion, with some Republicans willing to jump aboard.
The progressive super PAC American Bridge has started the Pennsylvania leg of a $5 million, four-week-long ad campaign highlighting Trump voters suffering from buyers’ remorse. The digital spots will also target voters in Michigan and Wisconsin, PolitcsPA reports.
U.S. House Dems have an ‘aggressive’ schedule of impeachment hearings on the books until Thanksgiving, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
What could end up being “thousands” of patients dissatisfied with Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program are scheduled to protest at the state Department of Health on Forster Street, behind the Capitol, starting at 8:30 a.m. today. It’s supposed to wrap up at 5 p.m. So it’s likely the wrath will be spread around some.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
will tour an aquaponics lab at Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, this afternoon at 2 p.m.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Todd Stephens
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Sen. Tom Killion
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out a truly ridiculous $13,500.

Heavy Rotation.
Been kind of hooked on this throwback from Rihanna of late. It’s ‘California King Bed.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
got past Columbus 3-2 in a shootout on Tuesday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.