Computers have fans that clog and slow long before the computer fails. A small tear in a jacket is not a problem, until the rip catches on a branch and suddenly you’re standing in a feathery nest of down insulation. A phone battery holds less charge before it holds no charge. To be a conscientious fixer is to recognize that repair is an intervention that must occur between functioning and complete failure.
The new unlocking law in the U.S. only covers cell phones. Other devices—like tablets, consoles, and even cars—remain locked down. What’s more, our world is becoming ever more computerized. Everyday items, like fridges and thermostats, are just as much computer as they are plastic and metal. Shouldn’t consumers be able to unlock them, too? That’s what we think. And so does the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit civil liberties organization.
If my phone were a person, it would be the Bionic Woman. Its body has been broken and rebuilt more times than I can count. Its brain has been modified, tinkered with, and improved. It is the phone that will not die—at least not if I have anything to say about it.
Today, President Obama signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law. This signing comes almost two years after the Internet rose up against the archaic process that first made unlocking a cellphone illegal. Since then, iFixit has been working relentlessly with other activists to shepherd a solution through the Senate. The President’s signature is a testament to the collective power of netizens, who stood up to powerful, entrenched corporate interests and won.
It’s been nearly two years since the American people demanded that Congress take steps to re-legalize cell phone unlocking. Today, Congress delivered. Earlier this month, the Senate unanimously approved the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” (S.517). This morning, Senators sent the bill back to the House of Representatives, which gave the bill their unanimous seal of approval. The bill nows goes on to the White House.
Last week, we wrote in Wired about the Unlocking Bill—a bill that the Internet demanded from Congress 17 months ago. A bill that Sina Khanifar, iFixit, the EFF, Public Knowledge, Derek Khanna, and a small group of other activists all helped to shepherd through Washington. A bill that—after countless hours of debates, rewrites, and haggling—had a shot of becoming a law. Well, that bill has just passed by unanimous consent through Senate.
A year and a half ago, a man in Washington made a bad decision that screwed over thousands of small businesses and hundreds of thousands more consumers. He made it illegal for Americans to “unlock” their cell phones. We cried foul, and 114,000 netizens joined us in demanding that unlocking be re-legalized. Normally, petition-signing is the flash in the pan of Internet activism. But this time was different. A bill that the Internet demanded 17 months ago is now on its way to a Senate vote.
We take freedom—both free as in speech and free as in beer—pretty seriously around these parts. So, we ring in Independence Day with a little something we like to call Liberation Week. Last year, as part of the festivities, we gave away 1,776 Liberation Kits. This year, we gave away 15,000 in just a couple of hours. Liberation Kits let people swap out iPhone security screws with standard Phillips screws, so they can open up their phones whenever they feel like it. Ain’t freedom sweet?
The Senate has made a strong positive step towards making sure that people have the right to unlock their cell phones.
If you haven’t picked up the new copy of Popular Mechanics, here’s another reason to do so: our co-founder Kyle Wiens contributed an article to the print edition! The article, “Why We Fix,” is a dyed-in-the-wool tinkerer’s explanation of why we do what we do—why repair, for us, isn’t just an action: it’s a state of mind and an amazing challenge. Pick up the magazine on any newsstand.
Repair is better than recycling. This Earth Day, add “repair” back into your sustainability checklist. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a few smartphone repairs you can do at home. (Most of these repairs require specialty electronics tools like plastic opening tools and a set of precision screwdrivers.) For our repair list, we’ve focused on Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S line, because they are the most popular phones in the US, Find many more phone repair guides on iFixit.