Nov 19, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

There's a lot to get to, so let's get to it.

Today's Login is 1,363 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: One solution to tech's diversity gap

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

While women and people of color remain underrepresented throughout the tech industry, the gap is less wide at companies that have a dedicated budget for diversity and inclusion, a new study has found.

The Internet Association, a trade group representing companies such as Facebook and Google, said this is the first of what will become an annual report on how the industry is doing.

Why it matters: Diversity reports from individual companies offer individual examples of the challenges, while the new report aims to paint a more industry-wide picture.

The bottom line: For all the attention put on the issue, the tech industry has made at best modest gains.

  • According to General Accounting Office numbers from the report, women made up about the same share of tech workers in 2015 as they did in 2005, while the percentage of the tech workforce from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds increased slightly over the same period.
  • While those numbers are a few years old, individual company reports all indicate that a wide gap remains.

Yes, but: Even companies that are investing to address the issue are struggling. Intel, for example, dedicated $300 million to diversifying its workforce, but has made only modest progress.

What they're saying:

  • Michael Beckerman, Internet Association CEO: "No one company can tackle diversity and inclusion issues on their own, so it’s important to change our focus on this issue, as an industry, from a competitive lens to a collaborative one.”
  • Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), co-chair Congressional Black Caucus diversity task force: "The lack of diverse representation means that many of our best and brightest — the problem solvers, critical thinkers, and those that challenge conventional thinking — are not included, and America's global competitiveness suffers as a result."
  • Harry Williams, CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund: "The results of the report bear witness to what we, at TMCF, have long-known, that companies who invest and commit to diversity and inclusion have proven success in meeting their desired results."

Go deeper:

2. DOJ scrutiny of tech could go beyond antitrust

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Regulators in D.C. are taking a fresh and broad look at Big Tech as part of their ongoing probes into the tech industry, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Two high-ranking antitrust enforcers, speaking at an influential D.C. legal forum on Monday, talked about the big tech companies' potential for anticompetitive behavior but also signaled they may take a broader approach to policing the industry.

The big picture: The Trump administration, Congress and state attorneys general are all investigating tech companies, including Google and Facebook, for antitrust violations. But they're also acknowledging that the laws governing competition may not be enough to rein in powerful online platforms.

Driving the news: Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said Monday the Department of Justice's review of tech platforms could reach beyond antitrust issues and the department does not view antitrust law as a "panacea for every problem in the digital world."

  • "We will not ignore any harms caused by online platforms that partially or completely fall outside of the antitrust laws," Rosen said in a speech at the American Bar Association's antitrust forum in Washington. "We are keeping in mind other tools in areas such as privacy, consumer protection, and public safety as part of a broader review of online platforms."
  • Meanwhile, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons said the agency will take a "fresh look" at the consumer welfare standard and "alternatives" to the standard. Antitrust law considers consumer prices as a key metric in that standard, which makes evaluating "free" online services more challenging.

Details: Here's who is investigating what...

  • FTC: In addition to the agency's antitrust probe of Facebook, Simons said Monday the agency has multiple investigations into major platforms underway. The agency has reportedly interviewed Amazon's third-party sellers.
  • DOJ: The antitrust division is investigating both Google and Facebook, with antitrust chief Makan Delrahim telling Congress last week the competitive dynamics around personalized advertising is an area of focus.
  • State attorneys general: Multi-state coalitions are also investigating Google and Facebook.
  • Congress: The House Judiciary Committee launched a probe of competition in digital markets earlier this year.

And both federal antitrust agencies are staffing up to add more resources to their tech probes.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department said Monday it will seek a court's approval to get rid of decades-old rules restricting how movie studios can distribute films.

3. Charted: Who's spending what on content
Expand chart
Excludes sports-related content. Data: MoffettNathanson presentation from Code Media Conference; Chart: Axios Visuals

Among major providers of entertainment content, Disney spends the most annually, followed by Comcast and AT&T, according to estimates presented by analyst Michael Nathanson on Monday at the Recode Media conference.

Why it matters: Netflix has been widely believed to spend more money on content than its streaming rivals. The MoffettNathanson estimates, revealed at the conference, dispute that notion, as Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Other insights: Nathanson showed the amount spent on content other than sports, but argued that sports were the big outlier that could disrupt a streaming bundle.

  • "Half of the bundle price is due to sports," Nathanson said. "We've been waiting for one of the (Big Tech) platforms to to really invest in streaming sports."
  • Yes, but: Nathanson did acknowledge that in order for streamers to be successful, they have to pick lanes. "You can't be all things to all people ... I think what we're seeing right now is this giant land grab."

The big picture: Nathanson said that the average American is willing to spend around $45 per month on subscription streaming services, which is similar to broadcast analytics company Magid's earlier estimate this year of $42 monthly.

  • He said that this means those services "really can't raise prices" much more on consumers if they want to stay competitive.
4. FCC will auction coveted 5G spectrum

FCC chairman Ajit Pai will direct his agency to auction sought-after airwaves for 5G services estimated to be worth up to $60 billion, Margaret reports.

Why it matters: The path the FCC chooses will affect how quickly 5G services can be deployed using the airwaves, which are key for both wireless capacity and coverage, as well as how much of the money raised will go to the government.

Driving the news: In letters to key lawmakers Monday, Pai said he wants FCC staff to auction 280 megahertz of C-band spectrum for 5G services, rather than the private sale pushed by satellite operators.

  • Pai said his decision is in line with his priorities of speed, generating revenue for the government, making a significant amount of spectrum available for 5G, and ensuring that current users are protected.

Details: A group of satellite operators that currently hold the licenses formed the C-Band Alliance and pitched a plan to privately sell the airwaves for 5G services.

  • Some wireless companies, including Verizon, support a private sale as the fastest way to bring the airwaves to market. However, AT&T warned in a recent filing with the FCC that a private auction could become "mired in legal challenges, or fail altogether."

Between the lines: The wonky spectrum battle became politically fraught amid a push by Republican Sen. John Kennedy for the agency to hold a public auction with proceeds going to the government coffers.

  • Kennedy spoke to President Trump about the spectrum, and Trump in turn raised the issue in a call with Pai on Oct. 30, an FCC official said.
  • But the White House did not offer an opinion to the independent agency on what route to take, the official said.

What's next: The FCC will vote on an order early next year, with plans to begin the C-band auction before the end of 2020.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Dreamforce officially kicks off today in San Francisco, with Marc Benioff and Keith Block giving keynote talks, and Benioff interviewing Apple CEO Tim Cook later in the day.
  • Qualcomm is holding an analyst day in New York.
  • Code Media wraps up in L.A.

Trading Places


6. After you Login

Here's the makings for another good tech prank.

Ina Fried