I Get It; But Then Again, I Don't

At the end of this year (December 24, 2024) the European regulation dictating USB-C power delivery takes effect.

One stated goal of this new law is to reduce electronic waste. Apparently the EU thought that the majority of electronic waste came from folk buying new gear that also used new cables and chargers.

That's been exactly the case for me, though not in the way the EU intended. In switching over to USB-C PD throughout my gear I've generated an enormous amount of electronic waste. USB-A, USB-microB, and proprietary cables and chargers appear to have proliferated in my household and now will be banished. I have six bins chock full of different cable options. As I switch to just USB-C PD, much of those prior cables and chargers are going into the waste stream that the EU said needed to be lowered. Thus, in my case, despite as much recycling as I can manage, the situation is the opposite of what the EU intends: I'm currently generating more waste, not less. 

Of course that's a somewhat short term problem. Assuming I can get to an all USB-C PD state, I should have fewer odds and ends that I have to deal with, particularly cables. However, that also assumes that USB-C PD can provide all my needs for the foreseeable future. History says no to that. Moreover, we already have a new problem: what wattage your USB-C PD can provide. Don't try using 100w devices with 5w chargers and cables. It might not work at all, but it will be inefficient if it does work. We're already currently up to 240w devices, and I wonder just how much further that will go, let alone with things like Thunderbolt 5, 6, 7, and USB-C 6, 7, and 8 specs also trying to live on those same cables. 

In other words, you'll likely still need new cables in the future, and probably new chargers, as well. The only difference is going to be that they all use the same connector, which will make it more difficult for consumers to troubleshoot cables/capacities if they're not marked (currently, they are not; so are we next supposed to throw out our unmarked gear and replace it with marked gear?). 

The real issue behind all of Europe's recent technology and business regulation is mostly a power play to try to throttle the American, Chinese, and Japanese control over technology devices. At some point, the rest of the world is going to call Europe's bluff. To a degree, Apple already is (with their Europe-only support of choices in browser and app stores). And the potential for retaliation is clearly there (Spotify and other EU-based tech companies should expect market retaliation outside of Europe). 

Technology knows no geographic boundaries. New ideas and processes can and do happen anywhere. What technology does know is regulatory boundaries, which are used to protect local or regional business in ways that is often (always?) counterproductive to users. 

For instance, in Africa we see protectionism surrounding Internet via satellite. While Starlink has long said it wants to provide its service in South Africa—where CEO Elon Musk was born—he says the SA government has been delaying regulatory approval. Or has it? ICASA, the South African regulatory agency in charge says Starlink hasn't applied (despite Starlink having long ago apparently having taken deposits and intermediaries taking orders). One bone of contention is SA's 30% black ownership regulation for Internet providers. But another issue is probably the usual kickbacks and local business protections. Eutelsat and HughesNet satellite service is available in South Africa, after all. But only through local ISPs who've already worked the system.

As I've often written, things go in sine waves in tech. We're now well beyond the peak on the globalization side of the wave, and are now moving rapidly into the protectionist and regionalization side. Prepare for more disruption. 

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