1 big reminder: Axios Markets, a daily newsletter, will be launching Jan. 7 to cover all the important stories in markets, business and finance.
- Dion Rabouin will be our markets editor, joining reporter Courtenay Brown and the writers of our other two business newsletters: Felix Salmon with the weekly Axios Edge and Dan Primack with his daily deals newsletter Axios Pro Rata.
- The plan: Mike Allen will send two more editions of Axios Markets on Dec. 19 and Jan. 2 before Dion takes over. To get Axios Markets sign up here.
1 big thing: Amazon stares down uprisings over HQ2
Amazon is caught in a surprise grassroots battle with critics who are furious that it's been promised billions of taxpayer dollars to put jobs in New York, Arlington and Nashville, the winners of its search for a second headquarters, Axios' Erica Pandey and David McCabe report.
Why it matters: Amazon won the top-down battle, with support from governors, mayors and economic development organizations. But it’s now confronting bottom-up outrage from activists and local lawmakers who were cut out of the bidding process.
The big picture: Jeff Bezos’ empire is no stranger to fights, having taken out retail rivals with brute force and neutralized Washington, D.C., threats with grand gestures like backing a $15 minimum wage for its employees. Still, it has struggled to head-off these local fights — all while Google and Apple plan major expansions in crowded cities without the backlash.
How Amazon's HQ2 choices are playing out around the country:
- In New York, City Council members took turns brutalizing Amazon executives over the tax incentives that are part of the deal for the company to set up shop in Queens. They also questioned Amazon's engagement with the legislative body and the necessity of a helipad that could accompany its office.
- From outside NYC's city hall, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's criticism of the company has been echoed by progressive activist organizations emboldened by her election win.
- Activists in Nashville and Virginia — the other HQ2 winners — are organizing around their own concerns about how Amazon’s negotiations will affect their communities. (Nashville isn't one of the two HQ2s, but Amazon is developing a new operations center there.)
Across the winning locales and losing cities, the criticism is the same: the entire process was shrouded in secrecy.
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company is "excited to work with New Yorkers over the coming months and years to bring a new Amazon headquarters to Long Island City and help support the community."
- The company says it expects to bring $20 billion in new tax revenue to New York and has also pointed to the fact that it will not receive many of the incentives unless it delivers on its promise to create jobs.
Amazon has responded to the criticisms by hiring more lobbying firepower in communities where it could face backlash to the office deals.
The bottom line: "This backlash is serious," said Nate Jensen, a professor at UT Austin who studies tax incentives. "We haven't seen this kind of resistance at the grassroots."
2. AT&T to launch 5G mobile service on Friday
The 5G era has arrived. AT&T is launching 5G mobile service in a dozen U.S. cities beginning this Friday, becoming the first carrier to do so.
Why it matters: The move allows AT&T to meet its promise to launch service in 2018 and will help usher in a new era of faster cellular technology.
- Eventually, other advantages of 5G, like minimal delay, will take cellular technology into new markets, including remote control of medical and industrial gear.
Yes, but: The service is only available via a mobile hot spot, with 5G-capable phones not due until next year.
Details: The faster mobile service will initially be available in Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Houston; Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; Oklahoma City; New Orleans; Raleigh, N.C.; San Antonio; and Waco, Texas.
- In the first half of 2020, AT&T said it plans to add service in parts of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, California.
- AT&T plans to make the mobile hot spot and data free for 90 days to "select businesses and consumers." Starting next year, the hot spot will cost a hefty $499 upfront and data service will cost $70 per month for 15 GB of data.
"Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It’s early on the 5G journey and we’re ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead," AT&T chief technology officer Andre Fuetsch said in a statement.
The big picture: All the major carriers plan 5G phone service in selected cities starting next year, though the initial markets will vary. Verizon also used 5G technology earlier this year to offer an alternative to home broadband.
3. NAACP calls for Facebook protest today
The NAACP has returned a donation from Facebook and called for a daylong boycott of the social network on Tuesday following revelations of how its platform was used to manipulate black voters in the 2016 presidential election.
- "Over the last year, NAACP has expressed concerns about the numerous data breaches and privacy mishaps in which Facebook has been implicated," NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson said in an email. "Now, the time has come for our collective actions to emulate the severity of mistrust we have in Facebook."
The move comes after a Senate report released Monday detailed how Russia's Internet Research Agency created "an expansive cross-platform media mirage targeting the Black community" with a goal of voter suppression.
Why it matters: The NAACP move adds another pressure point on Facebook, already under fire from governments, privacy groups and others.
- Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook is working to "strengthen and advance civil rights on our service."
Meanwhile, my former Recode colleague (and longtime Wall Street Journal tech columnist) Walt Mossberg announced Monday that he plans to leave Facebook and all Facebook-owned platforms around the beginning of the year.
- "I am doing this — after being on Facebook for nearly 12 years — because my own values and the policies and actions of Facebook have diverged to the point where I’m no longer comfortable here," Mossberg said, acknowledging he would be forgoing a lot of updates from friends and family.
4. FCC ignites a new round of media consolidation
The Federal Communications Commission is targeting rules that limit local broadcasters from merging with one another. That, David reports, is likely to fuel fresh debate over media ownership and pave the way for more consolidation.
Why it matters: The FCC may have killed the Sinclair-Tribune deal, but the overall trend is towards fewer owners for local news outlets — which are still vital sources of information for many Americans.
Details: The FCC voted last week to begin a legally-mandated review of the agency’s media ownership rules.
- That includes asking whether the current rule — which bans a company from owning more than one of the top four stations in a market — "continues to foster competition, the stated primary goal of the rule, and thus should be retained or whether the promotion of localism or viewpoint diversity also provides justification for retaining the rule."
- Right now, you can own two stations in a market — but only one of the top four, unless the FCC waives the prohibition.
- FCC also asks for input on the necessity of a rule that two of the nation’s top four networks — NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox — can't merge at the local level.
The big picture: The deregulation of the local media space has added more juice to an already merger-hungry market among broadcasters.
- In an email, Paul Gallant, an analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group, said that getting rid of the prohibition on owning two of the top-four stations "would really improve the long term health of TV stations, especially in smaller markets."
The other side: Opponents of media consolidation says it shrinks the number of voices from which consumers can get important local news and information.
- Last year, the FCC decided to make it easier for the same person to own a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market. It also removed a requirement that there be eight independently owned stations in any given market.
- "We're getting to a point where if they weaken it even further in small markets you could have one media voice across the board," said Gigi Sohn, a top adviser to former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat.
Yes, but: Not included in the review is the overall cap on what percentage of the overall national audience a single company's network of stations can reach.
What's next? The public will be able to submit comments on the FCC's review — which doesn’t suggest any specific proposals — before the agency releases a final report. The agency could keep the rules the same, change them or eliminate them outright.
5. Take Note
- The NAACP is calling on supporters to log off Facebook for the day. (See above)
- Apple has hired designer Andrew Kim from Tesla. Kim also previously helped Microsoft reshape its design language.
- Once promising AR startup Blippar entered administration, the U.K. equivalent of bankruptcy. (Financial Times)
- Work on Project Dragonfly, Google's effort to explore relaunching a search service in China, came to a halt after an internal row over the source of user data the project was relying on. (The Intercept)
- Oracle reported solid earnings and said its current quarter results should top estimates, sending shares higher. (Reuters)
- Facebook said a promised tool to clear one's history is taking longer than expected to develop and is still several months away. (Recode)
6. After you Login
As an early Christmas present (or a late Hanukkah one), here are a few gems.
- How to get fabulous, glittery revenge against a package thief.
- Parenting life, in one viral video.
- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey mailed his beard hair to Azealia Banks. Really.