Jan 13, 2021

Axios Login

Join Axios co-founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, other Axios reporters and me tomorrow at 12:30pm for our first Axios Town Hall event, where we will discuss what's ahead for our team in 2021.

Today's Login is 1,366 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: The billionaires' brawl over satellite broadband

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch. Photos: Drew Angerer, Patrick Pleul, Alex Rodriguez, Pakin Songmor/Getty Images

Elon Musk is under siege by fellow billionaires at Amazon and Dish as he tries to get his fledgling space-based broadband service off the ground, with clashes involving airwave overload and the threat of satellite collisions, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Why it matters: Musk's Starlink service could extend broadband to unconnected customers in hard-to-reach rural areas. But competitors are pressing the Federal Communication Commission to stymie Musk's plans.

Driving the news: The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday evening to explore letting companies deliver 5G wireless services over the same airwaves SpaceX is using for its satellite broadband program.

Catch up quick: SpaceX's Starlink and Amazon's Project Kuiper both plan to use constellations of satellites to provide high-speed broadband to customers. Meanwhile, Dish is working to deploy a 5G wireless service meant to compete with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

  • SpaceX has launched more than 900 satellites as part of its planned 4,400 satellite constellation.
  • Amazon received FCC approval in July for 3,236 satellites to deliver broadband, but has not yet launched a service or deployed any satellites, whereas SpaceX already has beta customers.

The wrinkle: Even space only has room for so many services. SpaceX is locked in parallel feuds with Dish and Jeff Bezos-run Amazon over how best to divvy up both airwaves and physical space in orbit.

Where it stands: Dish, the satellite company founded by billionaire Charlie Ergen, has urged the FCC to allocate the airwaves covered by the FCC's new study for 5G service.

  • SpaceX fears 5G services would interfere with Starlink, with Elon Musk calling FCC chairman Ajit Pai and other commissioners to warn against the "severe risk" rule changes could pose to his satellite broadband service.

Yes, but: The FCC has stressed that its proposal doesn't reach conclusions and notes the investments that SpaceX has made and the benefits of its service. The agency could still drop the 5G idea and give SpaceX a clear path.

Of note: SpaceX won nearly $900 million in subsidies from the FCC recently to support deployment of Starlink.

Meanwhile: Amazon engaged in a months-long lobbying battle urging the FCC to block a SpaceX request Amazon says would threaten its own plans for a satellite broadband constellation.

  • SpaceX sought FCC permission last year to lower the planned altitude of more than 2,800 satellites.
  • On Friday, the FCC allowed SpaceX to launch 10 satellites at the lower altitude in an order that largely followed a suggested path forward from Amazon. The FCC deferred action on the rest of the SpaceX request.
  • Amazon has argued that SpaceX's request to lower the altitude of its constellation would increase the risk of collision with its yet-to-be launched network of satellites.
2. YouTube removes Trump video, bans new uploads for a week

YouTube said Tuesday it took down a new video from President Trump for violating its policies against inciting violence and will block the president from uploading new videos or livestreaming for at least a week.

Why it matters: YouTube has been under pressure to take action after Twitter permanently suspended Trump's account and Facebook instituted a two-week ban.

What they're saying: "After careful review, and in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to the Donald J. Trump channel and issued a strike for violating our policies for inciting violence," YouTube said in a statement to Axios.

  • Under YouTube's three-strike system, another violation in the near future would trigger a longer suspension; a third, a permanent ban.
  • YouTube is also suspending comments throughout Trump's channel, citing the risk of violence. It has limited comments on other accounts in the past, but typically for child safety issues.

Between the lines: YouTube would not identify the offending video.

  • Several videos were uploaded to President Trump's YouTube account Tuesday, most from his visit to Texas, addressing issues including the border wall, law enforcement and last week's events.

Context: YouTube has taken down videos from the president before — including last week's removal of a video of Trump praising rioters as they stormed the Capitol.

  • But Trump didn't get a strike or the upload freeze for those videos because they came during an election grace period, which YouTube ended early following the Capitol siege.

Meanwhile: Amazon said in a court filing Tuesday that it shut down web services for Parler because of dozens of violent posts on the site, including threats to members of Congress.

  • Parler had sued Amazon earlier this week, alleging antitrust violations.

Go deeper: All the platforms that have banned or restricted Trump so far

3. Apple's latest moves on racial equity

Funding for a new developer academy in Detroit is one of several moves Apple is announcing today as it implements the $100 million racial equity and justice effort it announced last June.

The big picture: The tech industry is putting more money into racial equity efforts, but progress in diversifying its own ranks remains slow.

Details:

  • Apple is pledging $25 million to help launch the Propel Center, a global learning hub. The center will consist of a physical campus in Atlanta along with a virtual community designed to serve those at historically Black colleges and universities. 
  • The Apple Developer Academy in Detroit will open later this year. It's being operated in partnership with Michigan State University and aims to help young Black entrepreneurs and coders find a place in the iOS app economy.
  • Apple is also investing $35 million in funds that focus on minority-owned companies. Some $10 million will be invested with Harlem Capital — an early-stage venture capital firm based in New York — and $25 million will be invested in Siebert Williams Shank's Clear Vision Impact Fund, which provides capital to small and medium-size businesses.

What they're saying:

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook: "We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world — and these new projects send a clear signal of Apple's enduring commitment."
  • Apple VP and former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson: "For too long, communities of color have faced gross injustices and institutional barriers to their pursuit of the American dream."
4. Women take the stage on Day 2 of CES

The CEOs of Best Buy, AMD and General Motors all used the CES stage Tuesday to outline how they're keeping their businesses moving forward amid the pandemic and other challenges.

Why it matters: It was just three years ago that CES had no female CEOs in its main corporate keynote lineup. On Tuesday, there were three: AMD chief Lisa Su, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Best Buy CEO Corie Barry.

The big picture: The tech industry remains heavily male dominated, with few Black and Latino executives, especially at the highest ranks.

Between the lines: Of course, the three CEOs were there to talk mostly about their companies' latest moves. Here's what each announced during their keynote.

Go deeper: For more on the goings-on at CES, check out our single-page roundup.

5. Take note

On Tap

  • More from CES today, including keynotes from Microsoft CEO Brad Smith and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

Trading Places

  • Rob Leathern, who last week said he was leaving his post at Facebook, tweeted Tuesday that he will join Google's Privacy and Data Protection Office to lead product development.
  • FTC general counsel Alden Abbott is joining the Mercatus Center at George Mason University as a senior research fellow, leading a new project on competition and antitrust issues.
  • Learning marketplace Udemy is today announcing former Reflektive CEO Greg Brown is joining as president, reporting to CEO Gregg Coccari.
  • Former Trump cybersecurity official Chris Krebs will head a new Aspen Institute bipartisan commission, which is getting $3.2 million in funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, to examine the nation's public information crisis.

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