Mar 4, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Not ready to get to work? Fret not, I've got a little something for you to stare at. Just read the newsletter first.

1 big thing: The "national 5G" plan that won't die

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The idea for a government-mandated nationwide 5G network has reared its head again — and it may not be the last time, Axios' Kim Hart, David McCabe and Jonathan Swan report.

Why it matters: 5G is the focal point for a global rush to dominate the next wave of technology development — a race many policymakers worry the U.S. is already losing. National security fears about Chinese firms like Huawei are also motivating efforts to build home-grown 5G infrastructure.

Driving the news: As reported by Politico Friday, President Trump's re-election campaign had latched on to the idea of a nationwide wholesale 5G network, which is a dramatic departure from both the status quo and the free market position held by many in the Trump administration.

  • Policy staffers working on the issue were taken by surprise, and the FCC hadn't been contacted by the campaign, per an agency spokesperson.
  • On Sunday, the Trump campaign walked back its position and said there was "no daylight" between the campaign and the administration, as Axios first reported.
  • It's the second time an idea for a national 5G network has been tamped down. When Axios reported last year that a Trump National Security Council staffer was considering a national 5G network, administration officials reiterated the White House's support for a free-market, private-industry driven approach.

Yes, but: Wireless industry insiders worry they haven't seen the end of it.

The broad outlines of the plan have been described in op-eds and tweets from people close to Trump.

  • Last June, Trump's re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale described "a great 5G network" as an "open wholesale market with a privatized company that is not a carrier," in his "personal opinion." Last month he tweeted again about the need for a "wholesale" network.
  • Newt Gingrich said in a Newsweek op-ed last month that a "public-private partnership" was needed for a "carrier-neutral, wholesale-only, nationwide 5G network."

A small firm called Rivada is pushing just such an idea. It says its technology can set up auctions for use of the airwaves and manage the demands of different companies accessing them.

  • The company unsuccessfully bid on wireless airwaves to build out a national public safety network, a deal that AT&T ended up securing. The company has talked with the Defense Department and other bodies in Washington, but has not submitted a formal proposal, said Rivada spokesman Brian Carney.
  • Right now, carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint buy exclusive rights from the government to use certain blocks of airwaves to build their networks.
  • Gingrich and Parscale appear to be backing the idea that the government should allocate a broad swath of airwaves to a single private company that would then manage the sharing process between different wireless providers. Rivada describes its offering in similar terms.

Go deeper:

2. How Lyft's revenue stacks up

There are lots of ways to look at Lyft's business — many of which were listed in the company's detailed financials filed Friday as part of the ride-hailing firm's bid to go public.

One way is to look at how much it's making per user compared with other tech firms. Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva did just that, comparing it with GrubHub and Facebook.

Expand chart
Data: SEC filings and company reports on quarterly revenue; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Lyft vs. GrubHub: Lyft is currently bringing in more than twice as much revenue on average from a customer per quarter, but it’s also losing tons of money as a company.

  • On a per transaction basis, it takes a minor portion of each ride (most goes to the driver) and still spends heavily on promotions like discounts, both to attract new customers and to get existing customers to take more rides.
  • Meanwhile, GrubHub only has to pay drivers to deliver a portion of orders that come through its apps, something it began doing only in 2015. For orders that are delivered by the restaurants themselves or picked up by customers, GrubHub simply collects a fee from the restaurant for connecting it with a customer.
  • GrubHub is also currently the only public "on-demand" company that we could compare to Lyft. Soon enough, Uber will also file to go public and provide a closer comparison.

Lyft vs. Facebook: Yes, these companies have very different business models — one based on providing a transportation service and the other based on selling ads.

  • Still, it’s notable that a U.S. or Canadian user is worth nearly the same amount to Facebook as what Lyft is able to generate from a customer (after paying drivers). Even in the midst of public scandals, Facebook has been known for continuing to squeeze ever growing amounts of advertising revenue from its 2 billion global users.

Read more of Kia's full story, including the methodology, here.

3. Laurene Powell Jobs may invest more in media

Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs said Friday that Trump's attacks on the media are a dangerous threat to democracy.

"I think it’s right out of a dictator’s playbook," she said, speaking at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco. "That’s actually what people do to consolidate power."

What's new: Powell Jobs said she would be open to more acquisitions in the media space.

  • "Now that we have a really beautiful portfolio of properties — super high quality and important journalism — I’m open to more," Powell Jobs said.
  • She added that could take the form of more endeavors like the American Journalism Project, which helps fund local journalism.
  • (Disclosure: Powell Jobs' Emerson Collective is an investor in Axios.)

Background: In its sixth year, Lesbians Who Tech's primary focus is to offer a gathering place for queer women, trans and nonbinary people in the industry. But it has also emerged as simply a solid spot to hear from some of the smartest people in tech.

Here are some highlights:

  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki offered a rationale behind the company's recent decision to remove comments from videos involving young children in an effort to thwart pedophiles. But the best line of the interview came from moderator Kara Swisher, who likened Google and Facebook to urban planners that built beautiful cities but neglected to establish police, fire or garbage services.
  • Amazon VP Stephenie Landry spoke on what Amazon brings to the grocery business. Her talk offered context on, but didn't specifically address, a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday that Amazon is looking to expand further into the grocery business beyond its acquisition of the Whole Foods chain.
4. A lesson in really bad design

At 2:45am on Saturday morning, my First Alert carbon monoxide detector began issuing a series of beeps every minute or so. Figuring out whether it was a malfunctioning device or a life-threatening emergency proved to be way harder than it should be.

How it works: 3 chirps means the device has an issue and needs to be replaced. 5 chirps means the device has reached the end of its life. 4 beeps, though, means it has detected carbon monoxide and you need to seek fresh air immediately.

Details:

  • I thought I heard 5, and they seemed more like chirps than beeps, but I didn't want to leave the fate of my family to guesswork.
  • So I woke my partner, who groggily confirmed it was indeed 5 chirps and joined me in cursing the device's design.

My thought bubble: There's no reason it needs to be this complicated.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The security-related RSA Conference takes place this week in San Francisco. Axios cybersecurity reporter Joe Uchill is in town to cover the event.
  • Salesforce reports earnings after the markets close.

Trading Places

ICYMI

  • Square co-founder Tristan O’Tierney died last month at 35, with family members saying his death was related to addiction. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Microsoft is ending support for its discontinued Band fitness tracker and offering refunds to some customers. (The Verge)
  • Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani called out "60 Minutes" for tackling the issue of the gender cap in computer science without referencing any of the women-led efforts to address the issue. (Medium)
6. After you Login

Hypercard lives!

Ina Fried