Winning a Right to Repair: An Interview with Kyle Wiens of iFixit
In Episode #2 of our What The Fix Podcast, we invited Kyle Wiens of iFixit into the studio to talk about the origins of the modern Right to Repair movement...and what’s coming next.
It’s hard to imagine a right to repair movement without Kyle Wiens. A student at Cal Poly in 2003, Wiens dropped and damaged his Apple iBook. After trying (and failing) to obtain a service manual from Apple to repair it, Wiens co-founded iFixit.com which tapped the ‘power of the crowd’ to write and publish repair manuals for thousands of consumer electronics.
Nearly two decades later, iFixit is a multi-million dollar a year e-commerce and how-to website that sells repair parts and kits, publishes thousands of online repair guides and conducts product tear-downs of consumer devices.
But Wiens is more than just (another) successful West Coast entrepreneur. He is also the animating force of the right to repair movement - simultaneously providing intellectual, strategic and financial support to what is now a global, grassroots movement to restore the lost art of repair - of consumers fixing their own stuff.
That movement has started to rack up some symbolic victories in recent months, as once hoary opponents like Microsoft, Samsung, Apple and Google have agreed to launch customer repair programs that provide parts, instructions and access to the software needed to repair their devices. And, as we write, the movement is poised for its first legislative victory, after more than a decade characterized mainly by quiet defeat in the nation’s statehouses and on Capitol Hill. A bill on its way to Colorado Governor Jared Polis’s desk would create a legal right to repair wheelchairs in that state - making it the first non-automotive right to repair bill in the country, and the first new right to repair law of any kind in the decade since Massachusetts voters approved an automotive right to repair ballot measure in 2012. (Massachusetts voters voted to expand that law in another successful ballot measure in November, 2020.)
In our second episode of our new podcast, What the Fix, Paul and Jack invited Kyle into the studios to talk about the evolution of the right to repair movement and about the incentives necessary to force corporations to embrace repair (aka: right to repair laws).
In this conversation, Kyle talks about his experience as an entrepreneur, an accidental activist, as well as his struggles fighting corporate lawyers and lobbyists.
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Music: Acid Jazz - Kevin MacLeod