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Licensing Computer Techs As TV Repairmen 408

An anonymous reader writes "According to a story in yesterday's New Orleans paper, the Louisiana Radio and Television Technicians Board has sent letters to computer techs demanding fees to license them as radio and TV repairmen. Apparently, as computers drive more home theater applications, the board is trying to classify them as 'playback and recording device equipment,' which the law gives the board power to regulate. It looks more like a money grab, though, since no test is required, just $55 and an affidavit." It seems to me the better question is not whether computers can be defined in many circumstances as playback and recording equipment (hard to get around), but whether this kind of forced classification makes sense in the first place. Disingenuous quote of the day: "We're not trying to swing our arm around a whole bunch of people to get new revenue."
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Licensing Computer Techs As TV Repairmen

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  • by bravehamster ( 44836 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:00PM (#9895148) Homepage Journal
    Since the radio is just a component of the car, the car as a whole could be considered a playback device. Are they sending this extortion attempt to car mechanics? No? Funny that...

  • I dunno... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Srass ( 42349 ) * on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:02PM (#9895170)
    I'd think there'd be a big difference between someone licensed to repair computers, and someone who repaired computers who was licensed to repair television sets.
  • by cipher uk ( 783998 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:02PM (#9895173)
    you are overlooking the fact you won't standout when it reaches a critical mass. as its $55 everyone will get one as without one you will standout badly. this is when it just becomes a money grabbing scheme
  • Don't license (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pholower ( 739868 ) * <> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:03PM (#9895185) Homepage Journal
    In the end, Brohn acknowledged, the licensing system as it is now envisioned will not fulfill its stated purpose of ensuring consumers that a licensed worker will have the skills that Brohn said are needed to set up the new computer-based media systems. By requiring little more than a fee and a letter from a boss or client, Brohn admitted, the board is doing little to control the quality of licensees.

    "That is the problem with a grandfather clause," he said. "There is nothing that we can do about that."

    Sure there is, don't license computer technicians!

  • Re:I dunno... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:07PM (#9895220)
    I think both groups of people are aware that it's a bad idea to use a screwdriver to short a capacitor the size of your fist.

    That's the main point of TV repair licensing.
  • by Vandil X ( 636030 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:09PM (#9895233)
    According the the RIAA, MPAA, the NFL, and several other entertainment groups, playing broadcasted or distributed entertainment on a computer is against the law....

    ...So how can a local government body issue people a license to repair lawbreaking equipment?
  • by geek ( 5680 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:11PM (#9895243)
    "It would make one stand out amongst competition."

    No it wouldn't because all the competition will also have to have paid $55. It does nothing but gouge people for $55.
  • Stop complaining! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:14PM (#9895279) Homepage
    Go run for office and fix it already!

    Anyway, I *like* that there is a driving license. I wish it were *more* difficult.

    Marriage... that one is less useful now than it might have been 100 years ago. And with common law marriages, quite useless, though lots of states don't recognize common law marriage.

    Fishing and hunting I'll agree too as I don't think we should have unlicensed folk with guns shooting at things. At the least, it limits them.

    Essentially licensing is a force to limit, and in certain things I think that's good.
  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:17PM (#9895304)
    Who is John Galt? []

    There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.
    Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

    For every action there is an equal and opposite government program.
    Bob Wells

    Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.
    Chester Bowles (1901 - 1986)

    After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.
    Fred Thompson, Speech before the Commonwealth Club of California

    You know what's interesting about Washington? It's the kind of place where second-guessing has become second nature.
    George W. Bush, Speech on May 17, 2002
    Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

    H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
    I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.
    H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

    The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.
    H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

    Whenever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship.
    Harry S Truman (1884 - 1972), Lecture at Columbia University, 28 Apr. 1959

    You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.
    John Kenneth Galbraith (1908 - )

    The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.
    P. J. O'Rourke (1947 - )

    Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government too.
    Richard M. Nixon (1913 - 1994)

    So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.
    Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), Hansard, November 12, 1936

    Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.
    Tom Robbins (1936 - )

    It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
    Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

    I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
    Will Rogers (1879 - 1935), Saturday Review, Aug. 25, 1962

    There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.
    Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)

    The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.
    William H. Borah

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:22PM (#9895345)
    I would imagine that TV repairmen were originally regulated because they had to know how to safely work on open TV cabinets containing dangerous high voltages, operate test equipment on those high voltage circuits, and install suitable replacement parts that wouldn't catch on fire.

    I doubt that most computer repair techs have ever opened a monitor (or even a power supply). The entire thing is treated as a disposable unit. Most servicable computer components are relatively idiot-proof, only fit into the appropriate sockets, and operate at no more than 12V.

    If they weren't just going for a money grab, they'd exempt all computer techs who don't open up monitors or power supplies.

  • Recording+Playback (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:27PM (#9895368)
    During either the DeCSS suit, the DMCA hearings, or a RIAA/MPAA suit (I can't remember which), the court specifically ruled that computers were not playback and recording devices and thus did not fall into the realm of protected devices for fair use copying.

    Either computers are not such devices as the court ruling indicated, and thus this money grab is illegal, or computers are such devices and thus protected by fair use copying exemptions to the chagrin of the RIAA/MPAA.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:32PM (#9895410)
    It's not a bad idea. Since my sister took a p3 550 dell to a shop and they told her it needed a new mother board and it was going to cost $200 dollars to fix for a new mb, cpu and ram. So she paid the $40 minimum fee to get it back from them and shipped it to me. When I got it all of the drive and power cables were unplugged and the cards and the hard drives weren't screwed down. I plugged it all in and turned it on and it posted. All that had happened was that the XP home upgrade was blue screening. I put the origignal OS back on and the thing ran fine. I wish I could complain to a licensing board about that. I don't know if they were incompetent or dishonest with their diagnosis but returning a machine with all of the cables unplugged and the cards and drive flapping in the breeze is negligent. The transmission guy will at least bolt the pan back on and add the fluid back if I decline the recommended work.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:34PM (#9895420)
    Libertarians, you want a great example of all your noble ideas? Africa. Head over to Nigeria, where free market rules without any pesky government intervention. It's your utopia!
  • by ejaw5 ( 570071 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:40PM (#9895468)
    Perhaps I've been lucky (knock on wood) but TVs seem to last a long time with little maintenance. I figure when a TV finally does bite the dust, its served its lifetime well and about time to buy a new one anyway. People aren't calling repairmen to fix knob-controlled tv's embededded into wood frames are they? (wish they had kept the form design around though)
  • Re:Best Idea ever (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:57PM (#9895567) Homepage Journal
    That's what A+, CNE, etc are for. Pay money, pass a test that actually represents your level of expertise in the field, and get a time-limited certification showing competance. What we have here though is just an obvious money grab.

    Though that being said, I seriously doubt any more than 2% of the customers that come into our shop think to look for (or ask about) our technicians' certifications. Though I seriously wonder if any of the remaining 98% would know the difference between a "I paid $200 and passed a test any computer user could pass" cert and a "this took me three attempts at $150 each and six weeks of study to pass" cert.

    I'd also be willing to bet 50% of the techs working at computer service shops have zero certifications. The only reason I have certs is because we can't order service parts from the manufacturers without them.
  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @09:30PM (#9895774) Journal
    Well, let me tell you that a real computer repair shop will have a service depot with people who do work at the electronics level. I work in my companies IT department but sometimes I help the service guys when they are under the gun with a back log. I know only enough electronics to be helpful with basic stuff like testing caps and de-soldering and replacing identical parts based on a sheet of most common failuers until something works. Some of those guys are really smart though and know their stuff. Its incrdible some of the stuff I would have labeled as lost causes that they can have fixed in no-time flat. There service everything from IBM Iserise equipment doing fine detail work on tape drives all the way down to label printers, which most often you just hit with something.

    The point of my comment is this though. The people doing that work for us are EEs, they have credited degrees in Electrical Engineering and many are licensed as EEs. Considering the people who are doing this kinda repair work are already well licensed and covered. It seems insulting to license them again as "repair men"/.
  • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @09:41PM (#9895843) Homepage
    Please tell me how to "step up" the accelerating voltage in a CRT without installing a new transformer or a bank of capacitors. You speak of this "stepping up" as if one might do it accidentally.

    One wouldn't.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2004 @09:53PM (#9895917)
    "Those who are quick to support requried certifications for engineers (who already have 4+ years of education) and bringing on new certification requriements for programmers are sure quick to bash this. Interesting."

    There's an enormous difference between a privately offered *certification* and a legally mandated *license*. One is the free market's way of identifying competent engineers; the other is the state making work and jobs (without the state's permission) illegal.

    Is that "interesting" too? I should think it was obvious.
  • This is great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deanasc ( 201050 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:00PM (#9895945) Homepage Journal
    For the low LOW price of 55 bucks I can pad my resume with "Radio and TV Repairman".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:58PM (#9896233)
    Guilty until proven innocent. How unamerican.

    No, how New American.

    We detain people without legal access for suspicion of terrorism, being associated with terrorists and even being the same nationality as suspected terrorists a la Perl Harbor.

    We're a cowardly and hypocritical nation, but no longer honorable, if you judge us by our actions instead of our words.
  • by gandy909 ( 222251 ) <> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:05PM (#9896276) Homepage Journal
    Um, these days, won't a simple "...we think they may be, or are contributing to, terrorism..." be enough to trump that law and grab what info they have, as well as the video cam tapes of them buying the stamps...?
  • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:11PM (#9896316)
    Driver's licenses do not do anything to ensure safe driving.

    You're wrong. (So is this weirdo []).

    How does paying a couple of dollars every few years (with no testing) ensure that I drive safer?

    You're incorrectly focusing on license-renewal, which is actually less important than the initial issuance, which is what really improves safety. Or do you think that I'd really be fine to allow 14-year olds to get in cars and do 65 on the highway without at least first convincing a backseat cop that he's fundamentally competent?
  • by mrbrown1602 ( 536940 ) <mrbrown&mrbrown,net> on Friday August 06, 2004 @12:26AM (#9896732) Journal
    Louisiana is a different place than the rest of the country. First off, the state uses Napoleanic Code (which is derived from Roman Law) while the rest of the nation is using English Common Law. Every governmental position in the state is elected, NONE are appointed.

    Secondly, the state has continously put political machines into office. Fmr. Gov. Edwin Edwards (3-term governor) is currently serving a prison sentence in Dallas because of a variety of charges, basically stemming from taking bribes from casinos. Then back in the day, we had Huey Long, followed by his brother Earl Long. Huey even had a box where he kept all the kickbacks from state businesses and employees.

    Hell, to become a notary public in Louisiana, you've got to get approval from the Governor!

    The state has some of the most corrupt, crooked, and just plain old screwed up politics in the nation. Every profession you can think of has to be licensed - and especially now, because the state is running low on cash (thank you Kathleen Blanco), taxes are extremely high.

    Most businesses just stay out of Louisiana since the cost of doing business there, unless you know somebody, is extreme. Its good-ole-boy politics at its finest.
  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Friday August 06, 2004 @08:20AM (#9897955)

    "I opened it up, fixed it and have been using it for nearly 5 years. Not a bad lifespan for a free piece of hardware."

    Only in the computing industry... I have some of my dad's powertools (10 years old), drive my grandmother's car (39 years old), got some of my great granddad's hand tools (70? years old). The computing model really annoys me, this is just not sustainable, the world is drowning under a sea of thrown out crap. Why can't we build stuff to last a bit longer? or more significantly design systems that can work with older kit... Me, sick of software bloat. Even new distros of linux assume 2Gb hard drives and 128Mb Ram minimum. All my mum wants to do is email, and word process. I'm sure I managed this ten years ago. Surely must be achievable without hardcore linux geekhacking skills. We realy should try to develop a more long term design philosophy. I've got a three year old mobile phone, Ericsson, shockproofed, gortex lined, you can drop it in a pond and fish it out and use it, no problem. They don't make them any more. My guess is - because people like me buy them and don't need to buy another one six months later. We really need a big paradigm shift...(imho)

  • by gamgee5273 ( 410326 ) * on Friday August 06, 2004 @09:34AM (#9898376) Homepage Journal
    It's so the prosecutors can add an additional charge when they arrest the drug dealer, that's all. Remember, Al Capone was not put away for killing people or shooting up businesses. He was put away, in Alcatraz, for tax evasion...
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bs_02_06_02 ( 670476 ) on Friday August 06, 2004 @09:39AM (#9898429)
    I would imagine that TV repairmen were originally regulated because they had to know how to safely work on open TV cabinets containing dangerous high voltages, operate test equipment on those high voltage circuits, and install suitable replacement parts that wouldn't catch on fire.

    So you're saying that the government should require anyone who cracks open a TV set to have a license? No more fix-it-at-home episodes? Billy Bob can't drink a six-pack, get out the screwdriver and augment his gymnastics skills with the flyback transformer?

    Licenses are required to protect consumers from ripoff artists. Otherwise, you'd have corner shops with con artists "fixing" TVs.
    Back in the old days of tube TVs, it was very easy to take a damaged TV from a naive client, declare it a total loss by "demonstrating" how badly the TV was broken, and offer to buy it for $25 as a "parts" chassis.
    Then, put all the tubes back in, fix the original minor problem for $10, tune it up a little and sell it for $200 to someone else. Then wait for the next moron to walk through the door and attempt to swindle them too! A state agency with a licensing plan has a complaint system. Several complaints, and an inspector stops in, maybe to suspend the license.

    Back in the 60's and 70's, you could find tube testers at the hardware and grocery stores. Anyone with a screwdriver and some patience could at least get their TV up and running by bringing in dead tubes, checking them in the tube tester, and replacing them. Tuning was a bit more tricky, but it was possible if you learned a few tricks.

    Editorial Mode: ON
    PCs are simply a pain-in-the-ass. After chasing hardware and software problems for other people for the past 15+ years, I tell you, it's not worth $75 an hour to do it. The calls never stop, and most people generally believe that each incident is directly related to the first service call. They feel that they should only have to pay $75 once, and that everything after that is free. If you enjoy peace and quiet, strict enforcement of the $75/hour fee is required. If you perform one favor, somehow, everyone hears about it and you've got dozens of others who expect the same treatment. It's not worth it.

    The only thing worse than fixing PCs is fixing someone else's stovepipe network!

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan