Aug 6, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Today's Login has 1,383 words. It should take you roughly 5 minutes to peruse, assuming you aren't attacked by 30–50 feral hogs.

1 big thing: Faster internet is coming, but only for the few
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Data: FCC; Note: Non-mobile broadband speeds are 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload, Mobile LTE are 10 Mbps/3 Mbps; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Broadband technologies are getting better and faster — but access to them is still concentrated in metro areas and suburbs, leaving vast swaths of the country with marginal service or nothing at all, Axios' Kim Hart and Sara Fischer report.

Why it matters: Benefits of the broadband advances are mostly going to consumers who already have plenty of options for robust internet connections. Despite efforts to narrow the digital divide, rural areas, small towns and low-income neighborhoods in big cities still struggle to have access to reliable and affordable broadband service.

Driving the news: The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to require broadband service providers to report more detailed data about where their networks are available after criticism that the agency's data overstates broadband access.

  • The agency also approved repurposing $20 billion over 10 years to fund network expansion in unserved places.

Last week, Verizon announced that 5G is now available in parts of 4 additional cities and plans to have 5G service in more than 30 by the end of the year.

  • AT&T has expanded its 5G access to 20 cities since launching its program in December of last year. It’s now focused on acquiring more “mid-band” wireless spectrum to bring 5G to more rural areas. To date, most of its efforts are concentrated in cities and focus on servicing businesses. 

T-Mobile and Sprint, who pitched their merger as a way to help narrow the urban-rural digital divide, now have regulator approval for the deal under the condition that the companies unload assets to Dish to create a fourth national wireless carrier.

  • FCC regulators told reporters last week that the two companies could face billions in penalties if they don’t commit to using their combined spectrum, including a lot of coveted “mid-band” spectrum, to meet build-out requirements for rural populations. 

The big picture: Even though many rural households may have the ability to connect to the internet, consumers with low download speeds won't be able to participate in the online economy by video chatting, streaming video or telecommuting.

  • Demand for mobile services is exploding: Gig economy workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers or those who make deliveries for Instacart and DoorDash, rely on smartphone connections to schedule jobs and get paid.
  • Lower-income families are more likely to rely on smartphones for internet access.

Between the lines: 5G networks using the highest-speed airwaves won't reach rural areas for years because the signals can't travel very far.

  • But, the new subsidies approved by the FCC last week will be open to small community providers, co-ops and locally run wireless providers who serve rural areas where the national carriers won't build.

The bottom line: There's significant overlap between the parts of the country that have been left behind economically over the past decade and those that are broadband deserts.

Go deeper: Read their full story.

2. Tech ready to fight white-nationalist terror

Tech companies are willing to work more closely with law enforcement to fight white nationalist terrorism, but the industry is skeptical of the White House's seriousness on the issue.

Meanwhile, a number of smaller providers are already taking action against 8chan, the anonymous chat service that's been used by mass shooters to post manifestos — including those behind the attacks on a shopping center in El Paso, Texas, on a synagogue in Poway, California, and on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

  • First, CloudFlare said it would stop providing services to 8chan. Then 8chan found itself cut off from the internet entirely after its new hosting firm, Epik, was cut off by its service provider.

The big picture: President Trump called on social media to do better monitoring in the wake of recent mass shootings, but the companies point out the White House still has yet to sign on to recommendations made in the wake of the Christchurch shooting.

Driving the news: As part of his comments following the Dayton and El Paso shootings, Trump called on law enforcement and social media companies to work together more closely.

  • "I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, as well as social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike," he said.

What they're saying: While the Big Tech companies didn't comment on the record, they shared a consensus around several points...

  1. Many of the big platforms welcome the attention on 8chan and more extreme internet discussion forums, pointing out that extremists tend to start out there, though many do have presences on more mainstream forums.
  2. These companies are willing to work with law enforcement and believe that concerted action could yield results. One source pointed to the success the companies have had in working with law enforcement around Islamist terrorism and even more recently around election security.
  3. Despite that willingness, there is also widespread skepticism over the seriousness of the president's call, given the administration's past indifference to white supremacism. In particular, one source pointed out the U.S. hasn't moved on steps recommended after the New Zealand shooting, actions signed onto by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, as well as the heads of state of most U.S. allies.

Our thought bubble: Trump's speech condemned "white supremacism," but his call to social media companies asked them to detect "mass shooters" rather than pursue any specific group. The question is just how deeply the administration will want social media and law enforcement to go after extremists who may support the president and often share his rhetoric.

3. First Apple Cards arrive in customers' hands (and phones)

An iPhone owner using Apple Card to make a payment. Photo: Apple

Apple today begins processing the first applications from consumers to get the new Apple Card, the credit card it is debuting in conjunction with Goldman Sachs. Apple won't say how many people of those who pre-registered will be getting the cards Tuesday in the first part of what it's calling a "preview" of Apple Card.

Why it matters: It's part of a broader push into services from Apple, but also puts the company in direct competition with the banks and credit cards already part of Apple Pay.

How it works: At its base level, the Apple Card is an "iPhone-first" MasterCard that can be used anywhere Apple Pay or MasterCard is accepted. However, there are several things that make Apple Card distinct from other credit cards out there.

  • Although you can get a companion physical card, it's mobile-first and customers use an iPhone to sign up for the card, view their transactions and pay their bills.
  • The physical card has a traditional credit card number on its chip and magnetic stripe, but that number isn't on the card or otherwise visible. If they need a numeric credit card number to give out, customers can provide a different one stored on their iPhone.
  • Apple says its card has no fees including no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and no late fees. Also it doesn't boost its interest rate if customers miss a payment. (There's no cash advance/ATM fee — because the Apple Card can't be used that way.)
  • The Apple Card rewards come daily in the form of a credit to an Apple Cash account that can be spent at merchants, sent to a friend over iMessage, used to pay the credit card balance, or transferred to a bank account. Customers get 1% back on traditional card purchases, 2% on Apple Pay transactions and 3% on goods and services purchased directly from Apple.

CEO Tim Cook confirmed last week that the card was being tested already by thousands of employees and that a consumer launch would come this week.

4. YouTube removes teen's channel over hate speech

YouTube yesterday terminated the popular channel run by "Soph," a 14-year-old girl whose anti-gay and anti-Muslim speech and threats against the company and its executives had previously led to disciplinary action.

The final straw, per BuzzFeed, was a "12-minute anti-gay rant" in which she also encouraged her followers to "make sure to blame me in your manifestos” — an apparent reference to the texts left by those taking part in real world hate violence.

Why it matters: The Google-owned video site has been facing criticism on a variety of fronts for how it assesses and regulates hate speech.

  • YouTube confirmed to Axios that it acted in accordance with its hate speech policies, which were revised earlier this year, and its "three strikes" policy for deleting accounts.

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Ina Fried