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July 12, 2017

For our D.C.-area readers, Axios is having an event tomorrow morning with NBC News focused on the state of the economy. "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd and Axios founder and CEO Jim VandeHei will sit down with Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas. Doors open at 7:30 a.m and the event starts at 8. RSVP here.

How to tell Apple is serious about health and fitness

I walked away from a meeting in Los Angeles on Tuesday more convinced than ever that Apple is committed to making health a significant driver of phone and watch sales over time.

What I saw: Apple offered a handful of reporters an extensive demo of the latest health and fitness efforts, both its own and those from third-party developers. Of note, Apple offered a look at some of the first fitness machines that tap a beta version of GymKit to sync data in real-time between exercise gear and an Apple Watch.

Secret lab: The company also offered a few details on a top-secret health and fitness lab it has been running on its campus for the past few years. Apple director of fitness Jay Blahnik said that the company has amassed 33,000 hours of data on how people run, walk, cycle, swim and even how they sit. The lab employs 13 physicians, exercise physiologists and specialists along with 29 nurses and medics.

What's most interesting, though, are the efforts that remain secret, especially on the health front where things often involve lengthy regulatory approvals.

"Certainly there are things that take much longer that we haven't spoken about," Blahnik said, while refusing to discuss further.

If a Net Neutrality protest happens in the forest...

A host of internet companies are taking part in a "day of action" on Wednesday to support net neutrality. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and a range of smaller firms are all finding their own clever ways to speak up for the endangered internet regulations.

But the most important voice — FCC chair Ajit Pai — has already made up his mind so all the theatrics are likely to amount to just tilting at windmills.

David has more here.

More VC men behaving badly

Yet another venture capitalist has stepped down after being accused of inappropriate behavior. Ignition Partners disclosed yesterday that it asked for the resignation of managing partner Frank Artale after allegations of misconduct by a third party who asked to remain anonymous, combined with a prior complaint from 2016.

The firm, based in Bellevue, Washington, said an investigation into last year's complaint failed to substantiate the allegations but did find that Artale used poor judgment, which resulted in him being given anti-harassment and sensitivity training.

Why it matters: Artale's ouster is part of a widening circle of issues, including the many problems at Uber, as well as harassment issues at venture capital firms including Binary Capital and 500 Startups. Ignition has backed a number of tech companies, including Docker and Heroku.

Microsoft's rural broadband bet could hit speed bumps

Microsoft's ambitious goal of connecting 23 million rural Americans within five years hinges on access to certain empty broadcast channels, known as TV white space, to deploy low-cost, high-speed mobile broadband.

But Microsoft will have to fend off at least two industries that are skeptical of plans to use the particular airwaves — and are actively lobbying the FCC to push back on Microsoft's ideas:

  • Broadcasters don't like the idea of Microsoft getting free access to airwaves without a license. "Microsoft's a $540 billion market cap company," said Dennis Wharton, EVP at National Broadcasters Association. "If Microsoft wanted broadcast spectrum, it could have gotten it the old fashioned way by actually bidding on it. That's what other telecom companies did, instead of asking for a free-loader gift from the government."
  • Hospital groups use some of these airwaves to connect machines like cardiac and fetal monitors. They are concerned that sharing those frequencies with other unlicensed devices will interfere with remote monitoring of hospital patients.

Why it matters: Extending broadband service to rural areas has been a persistent challenge. Microsoft and others have been pitching TV white space for years, but there's a renewed focus on getting service to areas too remote or costly to reach with traditional fiber or wireless service, boosted by the possibility of broadband funding in a White House infrastructure package..

Kim has more here.

Take note

On tap: VentureBeat's MobileBeat wraps up in San Francisco and I'll be interviewing Airbnb's Mike Curtis there, talking about how the company is using AI to fight fraud and improve service.

Trading places: Twitter hired Ned Segal as CFO...Kristin Lee, who managed technology and science comms for the Obama White House, is joining Facebook to handle communications for the company's internet connectivity and access work...Tanya Ridd, a longtime veteran of Apple's European PR ranks, is leaving for Snap...Michael Ronen, former chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs' Global Technology, Media and Telecom Group, is joining SoftBank's Vision Fund.

ICYMI: Samsung has quietly acquired Innoetics, a Greek text-to-speech startup; the purchase price was less than $50 million, per TechCrunch...Symantec is in talks to sell the Web certificate business it bought from VeriSign back in 2010, Reuters reports; the company has been in a dispute with Google over how it issues credentials...Vizio is suing troubled Chinese firm LeEco for failing to pay a termination fee after LeEco dropped its planned $2 billion acquisition...Apple is opening its first data center in China in order to comply with new, tougher regulations there.

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