Executive Order targets everything from right to repair to ISP prices - The UpStream

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Executive Order targets everything from right to repair to ISP prices

posted Sunday Jul 11, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Executive Order targets everything from right to repair to ISP prices

Since the first few days of the Biden Administration, very little had happened. There's been a lot of noise, but no action. That changed on Friday with a sweeping Executive Order targeting nearly every aspect of the tech world. Some aspects might be controversial, some are nearly universally agreed upon, while others are surprising from this administration.

Right to Repair

This is a topic that seems like it would be a non-controversy, as every consumer in the country has wanted it. However, it has been nearly exclusively a partisan issue. That is why it's surprising to see the Biden Administration target the right to repair as part of this EO. If it works, it may become illegal for companies to punish consumers for altering a device that they own without cause.

Apple has long been an opponent of right to repair legislation, as they have made their name being a completely closed ecosystem. In recent models, the company has even included chips to prevent a device from working if an alteration was made without the technician software made available only to Apple techs. Consumers, however, all want this, as it will reduce electronic waste by lowering the cost to repair products. A definite win for us, but puts a major backer of the Administration on public notice.

Broadband Competition

Speaking of lowering pricing by increasing competition, internet service providers. As we have discussed many times before, many consumers only have one choice in ISP. This regional monopoly creates higher prices and lower consumer satisfaction rates. It also doesn't matter to the ISPs, because you have absolutely no choice but to use their service. In recent years, that has begun to change a little. Services like Starlink are getting closer to reality, and 5G home connections are a viable option in some markets.

Even in areas where there are multiple services, like in our area, property owners often make agreements with one service for exclusivity. Avram and I have both discussed living in apartments where the landlord has exclusive agreements with a cable provider, meaning that without Starlink or 5G, you are still locked in. The Friday EO goes after this practice, encouraging the FCC to try to prevent this behavior, protecting users, and hopefully lowering prices.

Net Neutrality

This one is controversial, but not for the reason one might think. Republicans and Democrats alike believe that Net Neutrality rules need to be in place. The difference is in the execution of these rules. Republicans have fought against expanding the role of the FCC, which has no legal jurisdiction over the internet, into implementing and overseeing Net Neutrality rules. They believe that Congress should be responsible for enacting these laws, as it is their legal jurisdiction. Deomcrats believe that the FCC should bypass the lawmaking process and try to enact the rules themselves, jurisdiction or not.

This EO encourages the FCC to put the rules into place. However, the FCC is currently split 2/2, meaning that there is no chance of pulling it off. On the other hand, the Senate and House both would likely have the votes to pass the law tomorrow, making it an easier process.


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