There is an interesting trend happening across America's farmlands. According to Motherboard, American farmers are now using Ukrainian firmware to hack into their John Deere tractors. Farmers say they need this firmware to bypass John Deere's lock on making repairs on their own tractors.
Naturally, being able to make repairs quickly is critical for farmers. Downtime of equipment costs money, causing farmers to lose time needed to take care of their crops. However, John Deere has forced farmers to sign an agreement stating that they will not make just about any repair or modification to the equipment.
Instead, the farmers must have an authorized repair facility or dealership make the needed repairs for them. But these fixes can take time. In some cases, waiting for a technician to make repairs could take days or even weeks.
Plus, the price for a technician to make the repairs is astronomical. One farmer in Nebraska told Motherboard that "Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part."
Farmers simply don't have the luxury of paying these enormous repair bills. Nor are they able to take weeks off at a time to wait for a technician to fit them into their schedule. So, they are turning to firmware that bypasses John Deere's rules instead. You can only find the firmware in online forums that require an invitation and a payment. But, all the work it takes to get the firmware is worth it for farmers.
Farmers and legislatures in Nebraska are now pushing for laws that allow farmers to repair their own equipment. The rules would require manufacturers to allow consumers and independent repair shops to buy replacement parts. The bill would also require public diagnostic and service manuals.
If these statutes are successful, they will change the repair world completely. For farmers, the primary concern is having the ability to repair their tractors. But, the law would also allow consumers to make repairs to other electronics, like iPhones and appliances, without sending them back to the original manufacturer.