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May 11, 2022

It was great to run into Mason, a loyal Login reader, while I was walking around San Francisco yesterday.

📰 Situational awareness: Google has signed a deal to pay over 300 publishers in six EU countries for their news, in accordance with an EU law passed three years ago that required online platforms to pay musicians, journalists and other professions for using their work.

Today's newsletter is 1,188 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: New push to make Big Tech pay more for bandwidth

An animated illustration of half of a $100 bill with the message "loading"
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Regulators around the world are exploring forcing Big Tech companies to pay more for the internet service they rely on to make their billions, Axios' Ashley Gold and Margaret Harding McGill report.

Why it matters: A growing number of governments think tech giants should up their contributions to the basic internet service that makes their success possible. That money could prop up local economies or help close the digital divide.

Driving the news: The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday will vote on bipartisan legislation that would order the FCC to study the feasibility of collecting fees from companies like Google and Netflix to shore up the agency's broadband deployment subsidy fund, the Universal Service Fund.

Meanwhile, in Europe, antitrust chief and European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said at a press conference earlier this month that "the issue of fair contribution to telecommunication networks" is something lawmakers should consider "with a lot of focus."

Flashback: The idea to tax Big Tech to underwrite the FCC's broadband fund, which supports internet service in rural areas, schools, libraries and hospitals, picked up steam among Republicans last year.

  • Currently, a fee on phone bills pays for the Universal Service Fund, but that revenue base has been decreasing.

The big picture: Companies that connect people to the internet and those that provide what people access on the internet, like videos, TV shows and music, are battling over who should foot the bill as streaming's costs and popularity grow.

  • European telecommunications companies argued earlier this month that the European Commission should require Big Tech to pay telecom companies for broadband infrastructure projects.

The intrigue: Netflix is already engaged in this fight in South Korea.

  • Proposed legislation there would make global content providers pay local network fees, and the streaming giant is in court fighting a local ISP's efforts to collect money, per Reuters.

Internet service providers in the U.S. have argued Big Tech should pay into the increasing cost of broadband.

  • The Senate proposal is "critical to the future of the Universal Service Fund," USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement to Axios. "USF has long benefitted a wide universe of companies — streaming, videoconferencing, e-commerce, cloud computing and more — that largely do not contribute to the FCC's critical universal service programs. It's time they step up."

The other side: "Consumers currently pay internet access fees and companies that use extra bandwidth for everything from search to video streaming already pay extra fees to internet access providers," said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents Big Tech companies. "These digital services help create the demand for the services internet access providers are selling."

What they're saying: FCC commissioner Brendan Carr told Axios it's time for a "fundamental rethink" on who pays into the agency's broadband funds.

  • "It's sort of a universal idea that people are realizing that these are the companies that are benefiting from these expenditures and so why don't we look at them to pay in as well," Carr told Axios.

2. Farewell, iPod

An early iPod, with charger and headphones.
Photo: Apple via Getty Images

Apple is discontinuing the iPod more than two decades after the device was first introduced, Axios' Erin Doherty and I report.

Why it matters: The iPod was introduced in October 2001 and became a cultural staple that would go on to revolutionize portable music. The only iPod Apple currently sells is an iPod Touch model introduced in 2019.

Our thought bubble: The iPod became more powerful in 2007 with the introduction of the iPod Touch along side the iPhone. However, that also marked a turning point, as iPods became markedly less popular after smartphones, which double as music players, went mainstream.

  • The writing has been on the wall for a while now, as Apple has updated the iPod Touch infrequently.

Flashback: The original iPod, introduced in October 2001, stored 5 GB of music on a small-for-its-time hard drive.

  • It was Mac-only, connected via the now-obsolete FireWire cable.
  • There was no iTunes Store, so iPod owners either had to use a CD-ROM drive to rip their music collection or resort to MP3 files downloaded, often illicitly, over the internet.
  • For reporters at the iPod launch (including me) Apple filled a device with music. In an effort to stay in the record industry's good graces, Apple purchased and included the physical CDs for all the music it included.

Driving the news: "Today, the spirit of iPod lives on," Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Greg Joswiak said in a statement.

  • "We've integrated an incredible music experience across all of our products, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch to HomePod mini, and across Mac, iPad, and Apple TV," Joswiak said.
  • The iPod Touch will be available while supplies last, Apple said.

3. WebTV founder's quest to improve wireless

A graphic comparing the efficieny of Artemis' pCell technology vs traditional cell networks.
Image: Artemis

For nearly a decade now, veteran technologist Steve Perlman has been trying to sell the world on pCell, a complicated but potentially far speedier way to make use of crowded airwaves.

  • Now, for the first time, Perlman's Artemis has a commercial customer for the technology, with San Jose's SAP Center, home to the San Jose Sharks arena, installing a private pCell network.
  • Artemis says its networks can deliver 10 times as much data compared to traditional cellular networks.

How it works: Rather than trying to fight wireless interference, pCell actually relies on the competing signals to deliver packets of information faster and more efficiently.

  • In its latest iteration, Artemis is using an unlicensed band of spectrum, known as CBRS, as home for its wireless networks.
  • To access the pCell network at SAP Center (and potentially other locations), customers need to use Artemis as their carrier, using an electronic SIM card. While the company is doing what it can to simplify the process, that's still more complicated than connecting to a WiFi network.

Between the lines: Perlman — a co-founder of WebTV who also did stints at Apple and Microsoft — has won praise for the novel approach, but has struggled to make inroads into the cellular industry. In 2015, Nokia agreed to test the technology but never made it commercially available.

  • With a new wave of technology around 5G and the prospect of more corporate campuses and venues building private wireless networks, Perlman sees a renewed opportunity for the technology.

4. Take note

On Tap

  • Google hosts its I/O developer conference today, with a limited attendance in Mountain View and a wider audience online.
  • BSA: The Software Alliance is holding its annual "fly-in." Directors and executives from member companies, including Cisco, IBM, Salesforce, and Workday, will meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

ICYMI

5. After you Login

Here is an unboxing of the original iPod, recreated in 2021 to celebrate its 20th anniversary.