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September 22, 2022

Check out our newest Login Update video, which follows up on the story we did earlier this week on The Last Mile, the coding school teaching web development to people who are incarcerated.

⚖️ Situational awareness: The FTC said that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy must testify in an investigation over whether the retail giant deceived customers into signing up for its Prime service, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Today's Login is 1,183 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Wireless tech aims to connect the planet — and save it

Photo Illustration of Semtech CEO Mohan Maheswaran with geometric shapes
Photo illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios. Photos: courtesy of Semtech

The CEO of Semtech doesn't mind that you have never heard of his chip company, but hopes the low-power wireless technology it is pushing will soon be on everyone's radar.

Why it matters: The technology, known as LoRa, has the potential to connect billions of devices without simultaneously inflicting further harm on the planet, Semtech CEO Mohan Maheswaran told Axios.

  • Technologies such as 5G and Bluetooth can also connect a wide range of wireless devices but consume considerably more power. That costs more and is also rougher on the environment.

Catch-up quick: LoRa, named for long range radio, is a wireless technology developed by another company that Semtech later purchased.

  • Its initial application is to connect sensors and small devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) market for home automation, industrial systems and similar uses.

Semtech makes the chips that enable devices to use LoRa technology, while the standard itself is managed by an independent organization.

  • LoRa is designed for carrying small amounts of data over a long distance and without using much power.
  • It runs in unlicensed spectrum and sends signals that can travel as far as several miles before connecting to another type of network. In a house, that could be a wi-fi network, while in rural areas it could be 5G or satellite.

State of play: Though still in the early stages of adoption, early applications of LoRa today include in devices that monitor water use and track items that companies own. Amazon has also combined LoRa and Bluetooth as part of its Sidewalk network for IoT uses.

Between the lines: Today's smart city projects, Maheswaran says, sometimes flounder because they rely on costlier, more power-hungry technologies.

  • Maheswaran points to one in his native India that connects lights, traffic signals and trash cans. It relies on cellular and WiFi connections and consumes way too much power. That's especially problematic in a country where power grids are easily strained and outages frequent.

What's next: Semtech is in the process of buying Sierra Wireless, a Canadian maker of wireless components, in a $1.2 billion deal, its largest-ever acquisition. The deal, expected to close later this year, is set to add 1,000 people to Semtech's existing 1,400-employee workforce and roughly double the company's revenue.

  • Maheswaran said Sierra brings capabilities that Semtech lacks, including cloud-based skills to manage networks of LoRa devices.

The bottom line: While Maheswaran has outlined the economic benefits of the deal to Wall Street, he also describes it as a way to connect billions of devices in a way that could literally save the planet.

  • "I have four grandchildren," he said. "I want to give them hope."

2. Fla. takes social media fight to Supreme Court

An animated illustration of the scales of justice
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The question of whether states can regulate what social media companies allow on their platforms could be on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Axios' Ashley Gold reports.

Driving the news: Florida filed a brief Wednesday asking the Supreme Court to reverse a decision against its controversial social media law after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit struck it down in May, deeming it unconstitutional.

  • Florida’s law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May 2021, could prevent platforms from removing content from news outlets, allow individuals to sue platforms if they believe content rules aren’t consistently applied and fine social media services that ban political candidates in the state.
  • The 11th Circuit ruled 3-0 that the law violated the First Amendment.

Texas, which is trying to enact a similar law, had a win last week when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that the Texas law does not violate the First Amendment rights of social media platforms and should go into effect.

The big picture: Conservative states have increasingly been trying their luck at passing social media content laws that control how platforms can moderate content. A Supreme Court ruling could put an end to that — or unleash more efforts.

  • Laws in Texas and Florida, two states that have been the flashpoint of this debate, vary in language, but broadly compel platforms to carry speech deemed as "political" or having a "viewpoint." Both states allege that large tech platforms are censoring right-leaning content.

Between the lines: Tech groups want the Supreme Court to stop other states from passing similar laws.

What they're saying: "Although we oppose legislation like Florida's social media law, which threatens the First Amendment and democratic principles, [we agree] that the Supreme Court should resolve issues in this case," Matt Schruers, president of the Communications and Computer Industry Association, one of the groups that's been fighting the law in court, said in a statement.

The bottom line: Conflicting circuit court rulings mean the Supreme Court will likely have to resolve the issue sooner or later.

3. "Smart Brevity" climbs up the Amazon rankings

an illustration of a hand holding "Smart Brevity," the book
Illustraion: Axios Visuals

Axios pioneered Smart Brevity, a style aiming to convey nuance and complexity in the fewest words possible. Now founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz have literally written the book on it.

The latest: Released on Tuesday, "Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less" is already a best seller, moving onto several of Amazon's top and new release lists.

My thought bubble: Having been here nearly since Axios launched in 2017, I think I already get Smart Brevity. Still, I learned a few things.

  • The concept has its origins in the work of Wall Street Journal writer David Rogers, a mentor to VandeHei during his days at the paper.
  • Mike Allen avoided using emoji for years out of the (justified) fear Jim would mock him, but now sees their judicious use as 🔥.
  • The average reader consumes 265 words per minute — the number we use to calculate reading times.

Fun fact: The book is 28,002 words — the bare minimum needed to qualify as a full-fledged book.

Go deeper: For folks in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'll be interviewing the three founders Oct. 18 in Corte Madera. Please join us.

  • Buy the book. (And let me know you did and what you thought!)

4. Take note

On Tap

  • Today's panoply of conference options include Salesforce's Dreamforce, Nvidia's GTC, Grace Hopper Celebration and Unfinished Live, among others.

Trading Places

  • Warner Music named exiting YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl as its next CEO, effective Jan. 1.
  • Charter Communications CFO Chris Winfrey will take over as CEO of the cable giant effective Dec. 1. He will replace Tom Rutledge, who has been with the company for 50 years and will serve as executive chairman through November 2023.

ICYMI

5. After you Login

Forget "Guitar Hero." Check out "Trombone Champ." Or if that's not your thing, what about someone playing death metal on a cello, in their underwear.

Thanks to Scott Rosenberg and Peter Allen Clark for editing and Bryan McBournie for copy editing this newsletter.