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Today's Login is 1,560 words, a 6-minute read.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The success of T-Mobile's long-fought-for bid to acquire Sprint is about to come down to whether a federal judge believes that the deal will boost or harm competition.
Why it matters: The FCC has approved the deal and the Justice Department has settled with the companies, leaving this case, in which 14 state attorneys general have sued to block the merger, as the primary remaining obstacle.
What the states say: Going from four national wireless carriers to three will inherently and necessarily reduce competition, eventually resulting in higher prices, particularly for low-income consumers.
What T-Mobile says: The company has been a disruptor in wireless, ending 2-year contracts and other consumer-unfriendly practices and forcing others to follow suit. There are actually more competitors today, including the cable companies and companies like Tracfone, while terms of the Justice Department's settlement ensure that Dish Network will emerge as another viable competitor.
Wild card: One of the biggest flashpoint is likely the Dish question. To settle with the Justice Department, T-Mobile agreed to a multipart deal in which it will:
As a result, T-Mobile says Dish will be able to hit the ground running in a way that no challengers have ever been able to.
The states, meanwhile, argue in a court filing that T-Mobile should not be allowed "to proceed with an anticompetitive merger based on the hope that Dish will one day grow into a viable wireless company equal to a competitor that already exists today."
Between the lines: There is certainly truth in both sides' arguments, and a lot hangs on how the court imagines the competitive landscape will look in a couple of years, with or without this deal.
My thought bubble: T-Mobile's own success is one of the biggest hurdles in its case. It's tough to argue that it hasn't thrived as a smaller rival given it has led the industry for years in gaining customers. And a lot of T-Mobile's strongest moves came after regulators scuttled AT&T's bid to buy T-Mobile. That said, Sprint is clearly struggling, and the economics of building a nationwide network with fewer customers are tough.
What's next: The case in U.S. District Court in New York is expected to last 2-3 weeks.
Tech-based economic growth has become so concentrated in the top 5% of metro areas that experts are proposing a federal push to jumpstart new tech hubs in the heartland, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
Why it matters: This divergence of economic realities between the top "superstar metros" and almost everywhere else shows how powerful clusters of skilled workers, jobs and investment have compounded the success of booming cities and left widening gaps among regions.
Driving the news: On Monday, the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released an ambitious proposal to spread the innovation economy more evenly across the country.
What's happening: "Most notably, just five top innovation metros — Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and San Diego — accounted for more than 90% of the nation's innovation-sector growth during the years 2005 and 2017," per the report.
The top cities have become so expensive that investors and companies are expanding to non-U.S. tech hubs like Tel Aviv, Vancouver, Bangalore or Singapore where they can operate more cheaply but still have access to skilled talent and supply-chain networks, said co-author and ITIF president Robert Atkinson.
The Vessel at Hudson Yards, New York City in October 2019. Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
Meanwhile, Amazon is moving into New York City after all. The company said it signed a new lease on Friday for 335,000 square feet of New York City's Hudson Yards neighborhood, Axios' Orion Rummler reports.
The bottom line: Amazon's new office space comes without any of the tax incentives offered as part of its New York HQ2 deal. Facebook signed its Hudson Yards lease without any direct local financial incentives or tax credits — but it is currently unknown what Facebook could get for moving into Farley Building, per WSJ.
A recently released AI program that generates hyper-realistic writing has become a powerful tool for storytelling, hinting at a new genre of computer-aided creativity, Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports.
What's happening: Inventive programmers are using it to generate poetry, interactive text adventures, and even irreverent new prompts for the popular game Cards Against Humanity.
The big picture: AI-written text is reaching new levels of realism — so much so that when scientists at OpenAI released a groundbreaking text generator earlier this year, they warned of potential dangers from mass-produced fake news. The risks are still present — but recent projects demonstrate the creative upsides.
How it works: The OpenAI language model is a bit like autocomplete: Based on an enormous amount of human writing, it predicts the best words to generate next. "Fine-tuning" it on a smaller corpus helps make it sound like an expert on that particular subject.
"It's good enough to generate a story that gets you emotionally invested," says Nick Walton, a senior at Brigham Young University and the creator of AI Dungeon 2. He says he spent somewhere between 200–500 hours on the side project — to the detriment of his GPA.
Go deeper: Where will predictive text take us? (The New Yorker)
Photo: Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM
RIP Caroll Spinney, the genius who gave life to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Editor's note: The top story has been corrected to indicate that after acquiring Sprint's brands, Dish Network will have 9.5 million subscribers (not 9.5 billion).