Oct 26, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Don't mind me, I'm just going to take a little nap in your inbox. It's been a long week. If anyone asks, you never saw me.

1 big thing: Google's dirty laundry gets an airing

Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

It was a story that many saw coming, but was still shocking to read: After a year of reporting, the New York Times offered up a blistering report on how Google failed to take strong action against male executives it concluded had behaved improperly with women.

Specifically, the Times reported that former Android boss Andy Rubin was praised and paid $90 million as part of an exit package even as an internal investigation had found credible a claim of "sexual misconduct" with a female employee with whom he was having an affair.

  • Of note: The Information reported last year that Rubin's departure followed allegations of impropriety, but the Times story goes into more detail and was first to report the large severance package.

Though the story focuses largely on Rubin, it also details other incidents at the company. These include various extramarital affairs that executives had with lower-ranking female employees and an incident in which a director propositioned a woman applying for a job.

Why it matters: The story confirms a wide belief in Silicon Valley that Google is the Big Tech company with the most skeletons in its closet in this area, having been home to a number of workplace romances involving married executives.

What's most striking from the Times story is not just the specific misdeeds. It is Google's apparent willingness to seemingly condone such actions, either by continuing to employ those found to have committed wrongdoing or by allowing them to quietly exit, sometimes with a large severance package.

Google's response consisted largely of an email sent to its employees by CEO Sundar Pichai and HR exec Eileen Naughton. It steered clear of most of the charges in the Times piece, focusing on how the company is approaching things now.

"In recent years, we’ve made a number of changes, including taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority: in the last two years, 48 people have been terminated for sexual harassment, including 13 who were senior managers and above. None of these individuals received an exit package."
— Sundar Pichai and Eileen Naughton

Our thought bubble: It is true that Pichai has a different reputation from his predecessors and has struck a different tone than other Google executives. It's also true that many of the founders and several other high-ranking executives responsible for setting the culture (and some employees accused of misconduct) remain at Google or parent company Alphabet.

Meanwhile, Rubin posted a short, highly specific denial on Twitter late Thursday, rebutting certain allegations leveled in the Times' piece.

"The New York Times story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation. Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room. These false allegations are part of a smear campaign to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle."
— Andy Rubin

Rubin did not return a request for further comment.

2. Tech slumps as earnings weren't all that

Thursday brought a slew of tech company financial reports and lots of profits. In several cases, though, it wasn't enough to meet expectations, setting up what's likely to be a rocky Friday in the tech markets.

Details:

By contrast: Intel, like Microsoft earlier this week, exceeded expectations thanks to strength in corporate PCs and data center spending. Its shares, unlike the others, rose slightly after hours.

3. Cities challenge FCC in court on 5G order

A number of cities are taking the Federal Communications Commission to court, arguing the agency exceeded its authority in limiting local review of cell sites as part of a 5G order.

What's at stake: The FCC says it wants to streamline things to allow a fast, smooth rollout of the next generation of cellular technology, while cities say they should retain authority to set standards and fees for cellular equipment placed in public right-of-ways.

U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO Tom Cochran issued a blistering statement opposing the FCC's actions.

“Instead of working with local governments to win the global race to 5G, the FCC is forcing cities to race to the courthouse to defend the most basic of local government rights – the authority to manage and seek fair compensation from private users that seek to employ public assets, owned and paid for by local taxpayers, for their personal profit without any obligation to serve all of the community whose assets are occupied."
— Tom Cochran
4. Verizon: Setting the table for 5G mobile

Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Speaking of 5G, the race is on among carriers to be the first. Verizon has claimed victory for at least part of that battle, by delivering 5G this year in the form of home broadband connections. But no one's reached the mobile service finish line yet.

Why it matters: The question is whether Verizon's experience using an early version of 5G to deliver a non-mobile service will matter much when it comes to the real prize: Delivering service to cellphones next year.

  • Verizon’s top engineer insists it will help broadband competition and introduce customers to the next generation of wireless technology, Axios' David McCabe reports.

What they’re saying: “Many places may only have one [broadband] provider,” Nicki Palmer, Verizon’s chief network officer, said on an episode of C-SPAN’s "The Communicators" filmed this week.

“And we think this is a way with no trenching, no disruption to the home, where we can provide a very competitive product using this technology,” she said.

Palmer also pushed back on T-Mobile chief executive John Legere, who tweeted of the home broadband offering that “I have to say congrats to Verizon on delivering its 5G* Home Service today. It doesn’t use global industry standards or cover whole blocks and will never scale… but hey, it is first, right?!"

  • "It’s actually false,” Palmer said of Legere's comment. She noted that Verizon is using pre-commercial gear to deliver its 5G home broadband service, but said that it could either be kept as is or upgraded to the final standard. Verizon would have to change out the home equipment in order to have it be standards compliant.
  • Unlike a phone, which needs to be standards compliant in order to interoperate and roam other networks, the home gear will only ever need to work with Verizon's equipment.

Go deeper:

  • The White House on Thursday announced a presidential memorandum ordering the Commerce Department to develop a national spectrum strategy, with an eye towards the global 5G race.
  • Axios’ tech team went deep on the next generation wireless networks last month.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The iPhone XR, the mid-range model unveiled by Apple last month, hits store shelves today, following largely positive reviews.
  • Qualcomm and Apple are due in court in San Diego amid their ongoing, global legal battle.

Trading Places

  • Airbnb hired former Google executive (and Yahoo CTO) Aristotle (Ari) Balogh to be its chief technology officer.

ICYMI

6. After you Login

Halloween candy, ranked.

Ina Fried