Oct 2, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

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1 big thing: Net neutrality fight heads to the states

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Court rulings often bring clarity to thorny policy issues — but a mixed decision yesterday on the FCC's handling of net neutrality rules only deepens a bitter internet policy debate that's been raging in Washington for over a decade, Axios' Kim Hart reports.

An appeals court upheld parts of the FCC's move to wipe net neutrality rules from the books, but overturned the commission’s attempt to prevent states from implementing their own rules. The court also directed the agency to rethink how removing the protections would impact public safety and low-income consumers.

Why it matters: While the ruling allowed both sides to claim some level of victory, it also opens up 50 potential new fights over state rules.

Here's why this next phase of the net neutrality fight could play out differently than in the past.

Silicon Valley is distracted: 10 years ago, when companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon were just starting to build Washington operations, net neutrality was a major focus of their efforts. They advocated for equal treatment of all online traffic, arguing that the broadband providers that own internet pipes should not be allowed to slow down, block or charge extra for competitors' content.

  • Today, net neutrality is the least of Silicon Valley's worries. Tech companies are facing much larger regulatory threats to their businesses — ranging from antitrust investigations spurred by calls to break them up, to proposals to end a "safe harbor" provision that has protected them from liability for user-contributed content.
  • The biggest tech platforms also don't necessarily need the net neutrality protections they once championed. Google's YouTube, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon, for example, have so much market leverage that they don't need the government's protection when negotiating with the major ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter.
  • Yes, but: Tech workers still care deeply about net neutrality, and the next generation of internet platforms like Vimeo and Etsy will likely be pushing for rules.

Power of streaming: Video streaming services are much more robust and popular now, which may change the business dynamic between the tech and telecom companies.

  • Trying to compete with the tech giants, ISPs have launched their own streaming services.
  • That means that, in some cases, the telecom giants will be arguing for dual business interests — for control over their own broadband networks and against discriminatory behavior by other network operators. (But, the telcos' own streaming services are still relatively small compared to the tech industry's properties.)
  • Other new streaming services, like those being launched by Apple and Disney, could bring those companies off the sidelines of the debate.

Fight moves to the states — and Congress: The court revived states' ability to pass their own rules governing how broadband providers treat web traffic within their borders, opening the doors for some progressive states to implement rules that go even further than the Obama-era rules that the Trump FCC reversed.

Kim has more here.

2. The real problem with action cameras

Screenshot: Gopro.com

Two of the leaders in the action camera world, GoPro and personal drone maker Skydio, unveiled new products Tuesday, aiming to woo new buyers and convince existing owners to upgrade.

But whereas once upon a time the biggest issues with such cameras were things like battery life and ease-of-use, the category is now bumping into a new, possibly tougher problem: these cameras are great when you're scaling Half Dome or snorkeling in Maui, but most of our lives just don't pack in enough action to justify such a camera.

Driving the news:

  • GoPro unveiled 2 new models, the $399 Hero8 Black and $499 Hero8 Max, waterproof action cameras which feature the ability to connect accessories directly without separate mounting hardware. The Max version functions as both a traditional action camera and, thanks to dual lenses, a 360-degree recording device.
  • Drone maker Skydio introduced the second version of its owner-following drone, improving the size, range, battery life, camera and other features all with a lower starting price — $999 sans controller. (The Verge has a detailed hands-on here.)

The bottom line: I aspire in the coming year to have enough action to justify the purchase of a GoPro, maybe even the Max. Skydio will probably have to wait at least another year, though that doesn't mean I don't want to try it out, too — especially since I am so bad at flying traditional drones.

3. Google's latest privacy moves

Image: Google

Google is bringing incognito mode to Google Maps and allowing users to auto-delete their YouTube history, in its latest moves to expand its privacy options. Customers will also be able to ask the Google Assistant to delete various types of data.

Why it matters: The company has been under fire for the amount of data it collects and said at its spring I/O developer conference that it would offer users more privacy options.

With the changes to Assistant, Google says consumers will be able to do things like "delete the last thing I said to you" or "delete everything I said to you last week" by voice and without changing any privacy settings.

Google had promised the incognito option for Maps back at I/O. At the event it announced auto-delete for web, app and location history and, as of Wednesday, it is expanding those features to YouTube.

The bigger picture: Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said that in many cases Google can do what customers and advertisers want with less data.

Go deeper: Google's new emphasis — privacy

4. Scoop: WeWork aims to unload more acquisitions

WeWork plans to spin off or sell 2 more of its recent acquisitions — SpaceIQ and Teem — in addition to others that have been reported, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: After replacing its CEO and shelving its IPO, the company is looking to boost its balance sheet and focus on its core co-working business.

As was reported by The Information last week, the company is looking to spin off Managed by Q, Meetup and Conductor, and it has already received interest, the source said.

As for SpaceIQ and Teem, both are tech companies that help businesses manage their space.

  • Teem, which WeWork acquired a year ago, has a variety of software for businesses, including managing conference-room bookings and handling visitors arriving at the lobby.
  • SpaceIQ, acquired in July, allows a company's real estate department to handle tasks such as managing floor plans and desk assignments.

The big picture: Divesting recent purchases isn't the only change being made by new management. The company has also fired a number of executives with close ties to former CEO Adam Neumann, and layoffs are reportedly in the offing.

Go deeper: We(re)Work: One week, many changes

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Microsoft debuts its new Surface hardware in New York.
  • TechCrunch Disrupt kicks off in San Francisco.

Trading Places

  • Intel promoted tax unit chief Sharon Heck to corporate treasurer, replacing Ravi Jacob, who is retiring after 35 years at the chipmaker.

ICYMI

  • Visa and Mastercard are reportedly rethinking whether to take part in Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency. (WSJ)
  • Intel dropped prices on some chips ahead of increased competition from AMD. (Anandtech)
  • Tesla is buying computer vision startup DeepScale. (CNBC)
  • Tim Cook says iPhone 11 sales are off to a "very strong start." (CNBC)
6. After you Login

Early snow is making for some great fall wedding photos.

Ina Fried