Jul 3, 2018

Axios Login

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1 big thing: An unlimited number of unlimited plans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The good news is that, after years of having to pay per gigabyte, unlimited plans are now the norm at all of the major U.S. wireless carriers. The bad news is that, somehow, those same companies have managed to create different categories of unlimited.

What's happening now: At the low-end, some have data caps before speeds are throttled. At the high-end, many come with premium video services (the latest battleground).

The bottom line: You'd think unlimited was an absolute, like "infinite." But even with unlimited data, you will have to read the fine print to make sure you are getting what you want and not paying for things you don't need. Here's what each is offering:

1. AT&T: The biggest challenge with AT&T's unlimited plans is that the options and combinations keep changing.

  • With the closing of its Time Warner deal, AT&T has revamped its lineup to focus on two new plans, unhelpfully dubbed "Unlimited & More" and "Unlimited & More Premium."
  • The latter of those includes an add-on service like HBO, Cinemax or Showtime, or a music service like Pandora Premium.
  • AT&T also offers other free or discounted video services to its wireless customers.

2. Sprint: The nation's No. 4 carrier, which is in the process of trying to sell itself to T-Mobile, has been experimenting with all kinds of promotions and offers, though most are limited-time plans.

  • Its cheapest option, a $15-per-month unlimited plan, was offered for just one week.
  • It currently is offering 4 lines of unlimited for $25 per month each — and a free 5th line — but that offer is also in its "final days," according to Sprint's website.

3. T-Mobile: T-Mobile's plans are probably the simplest to understand.

  • The standard plan is called T-Mobile One, while a higher-end option T-Mobile One Plus offers higher-quality video and high-speed tethering.
  • If you want the free Netflix option, you need to have at least two lines on a T-Mobile One plan.

4. Verizon: In its latest ad campaign, Verizon actually boasts about the fact that it now has a bunch of unlimited plans and you can now mix and match them within a family plan.

  • It has the "go unlimited," "beyond unlimited" and "above unlimited" plans with the pricier options adding higher-quality data, faster hotspot tethering and more international roaming options.

My thought bubble: The wireless carriers always want some point of differentiation they can tout to distinguish their plans. In the old days it was the number of voice minutes or texts, then the amount of data. Now it's the use of things like video services to ensure there's more than one price point.

Go deeper: The Verge has a comprehensive look at all the options from each of the major carriers.

2. Facebook ramps up hiring of D.C. engineers

Facebook's headquarters in California, where a vintage sign that says "The Hacker Company" hangs. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook is quintupling its engineers in Washington, D.C., as it looks to show lawmakers it can handle problem like countering online extremism and foreign election meddling, Axios' David McCabe reports.

Why it matters: This underscores how tied Facebook's future is to decisions made in the nation’s capital.

What they’re doing: “We’re looking to quintuple the size of the office over the next couple of years,” said Ben Strahs, who helps lead Facebook’s existing engineering presence in Washington. Those new recruits, which Strahs said the company is looking to bring on “as quickly as we can hire,” will join engineers who are already working on contentious issues.

  • “We’re very much focused on security, safety and privacy at this point,” he said, adding that the new engineers will also work on timely concerns like “stopping foreign interference in elections.”
  • Jen Weedon, who works in Facebook’s D.C. office, said on Twitter ahead of a networking event next week that her team is “hiring lots of threat trackers + intel analysts.”
  • Strahs said Washington has a strong pool of talent interested in tackling similar issues and the engineers would have access to helpful experts. “What I always tell people is don’t join the DC office unless you’re really engaged with the problem space,” he said.
  • But he added the company isn’t looking to solely hire “grizzled defense contracting veterans,” because the questions Facebook engineers will grapple with require a diverse set of perspectives.

Go deeper: Read David's full story.

Meanwhile: Facebook had a busy day on Monday. The company also...

3. There's more than one way to hack an election

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded a long time ago (and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee agreed) that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections. But, as Axios' Shannon Vavra reports, election-tampering can take many forms.

Reality check: The American election system is actually made up of 50 different state-run elections, and each state has several systems that are potentially vulnerable.

The systems most at risk in the election process:

  • Voter registration systems.
  • Voter registration databases.
  • Voter records at polling places, which are known as poll books and can exist in both printed and electronic versions.
  • Voting machines.
  • Vote tabulation.

Of note: This list doesn't include voter fraud, illegal efforts to influence votes, and problems with news, social media and information surrounding elections.

Be smart: Any vulnerability can be exploited in ways that reduce public trust in elections, and if that's the goal of an adversary like, say, Russia, then the system's credibility could be weakened even if tampering hasn't promoted a particular winner or loser.

Go deeper: Shannon has more here.

4. A deeper look at Lyft's big bike-sharing buy
Motivate runs bike-sharing in a number of U.S. cities, including Citi Bike in New York. Photo: Motivate

Lyft finally confirmed Monday that it’s getting in the bike-sharing business by acquiring Motivate, the company behind Ford GoBike in San Francisco and Citi Bike in New York. Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva has a look at the deal, which sources tell Axios came with a $250 million price tag.

The bottom line: Once again, Uber and Lyft are going head-to-head, this time with bikes (Uber acquired dockless bike-sharing company Jump in April).

  • But unlike with ride-hailing, where Uber has always held a big lead, this market's shape is less settled. There are heavy regulations and caps on bikes, and the vehicles are owned and maintained by the companies.

What Lyft bought: Motivate’s team, assets, and contracts with cities, which means Lyft now owns a large chunk of the bike-share market in the U.S.

  • What it didn’t buy is Motivate’s maintenance and servicing business, which will continue to operate on its own. This part of Motivate’s business employs unionized workers, likely something Lyft didn’t want to oversee.

Bear in mind: Many, if not all, of Motivate’s contracts with cities include clauses that allow the city to terminate the contract under conditions like a change in control — such as Lyft acquiring Motivate. It’s unclear whether Lyft got the cities’ blessings before going forward with the deal.

  • Sponsorships, like Ford in San Francisco and Citibank in New York, are also making this acquisition interesting.
  • Lyft says the sponsorships remain in place, which is not surprising as they bring in about half of Motivate’s revenue, according to a source familiar with the bike-sharing company.
  • But this also means that Lyft won’t have its own brand all over the bike services, which may or may not bother the company.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Today is the birthday of my fabulous partner. I literally couldn't do Login without all of his support. His willingness to handle our five-year-old for long stretches at a time lets me travel around the country and bring you all kinds of interesting stories. Happy Birthday AJ!

Trading Places

  • Doug Field, Tesla's SVP for engineering (who had been on leave), won't be returning to the Silicon Valley electric automaker.


6. After you Login

Baby elephants, anyone?