Oct 10, 2019

Axios Login

Your guest newsletter editor for the day is happy to report that the lights are still on in our corner of Northern California, at least long enough for us to get this edition out to you! Ina will return tomorrow.

Today's Login is 1,440 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Broadband's entrenched inequality
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Data: Axios research. Note: Prices do not include taxes, except Starry. Table: Axios Visuals

A recent Census Bureau report found that several of the states that have fallen furthest behind on broadband access also have some of the highest levels of poverty in the country, Axios' Kim Hart and Margaret Harding McGill report.

Why it matters: "Inequality and the lack of broadband access have become inherently intertwined in the U.S.," Francella Ochillo, executive director of Next Century Cities, writes for Axios Expert Voices.

  • Income inequality is at a 50-year high, and many states with the highest poverty levels — Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas — are also the least connected.

Driving the news: Earlier this month, an appeals court upheld the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules, but the court also required the agency to address concerns over how the change will affect internet access subsidies for low-income Americans.

What's available: Several major internet service providers offer discounted plans for eligible low-income consumers.

  • Most require at least 1 member of the household to be enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (as with Spectrum Internet Assist) or food stamps (as with AT&T Access) or Section 8 rental assistance (as with Cox Connect2Compete).
  • Other restrictions can make it difficult to navigate the sign-up process. For example, many require that applicants have not been subscribers to the provider's services for 30 or 90 days prior to signing up.
  • Speeds vary by the type of lines available where the customer lives — copper or fiber. With Frontier Fundamental (available in California), download speeds range from 1 mbps to 50 mbps.
  • There are also data caps. AT&T Access provides a monthly allowance of either 150 GB or 1 TB of data per month depending on service, and customers are automatically charged $10 for each $50 GB of data used in excess of the plan.
  • A Mediacom spokeswoman says it does not have across-the-board data caps for Connect2Compete customers, but handles overages on a case-by-case basis.
  • A Comcast spokesman said the company has a data cap of 1 TB per month in two-thirds of its footprint, which applies to Internet Essentials.

Comcast estimates it has connected 8 million low-income people since its program launched in 2011. In August, it expanded eligibility to include all low-income consumers in its coverage areas.

  • Comcast considers the program such a success that executive David Cohen encouraged other companies to talk to him about using Internet Essentials as a model for similar programs.
  • He told the audience at a cable industry conference they could even rebrand Comcast marketing materials.
  • Comcast has had a few briefings with smaller cable companies about Internet Essentials, but no partnerships to announce, a spokesman said.

The bottom line: From the beginning, broadband access was promoted as a means to reduce inequality between urban and rural America, but despite these programs to bridge this original "digital divide," stubborn gaps remains.

Go deeper: Axios special report — the new digital divides

2. Zuckerberg returns to the Hill to talk Libra

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 23 as part of a hearing titled "An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors."

Why it matters: Libra, Facebook's cryptocurrency project, faces headwinds from lawmakers and regulators.

  • In July, House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called for a moratorium on the project.
  • Zuckerberg's decision to testify about Libra personally rather than sending a subordinate is a sign of the effort's importance to Facebook.

Go deeper:

3. Apple removes app used to track Hong Kong police

A protester throws a tear gas canister fired by police Hong Kong on Oct. 1. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

Confronted with evidence of danger to police and citizens, Apple removed an app Wednesday night that, a company statement said, "has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong," Mike Allen reports.

  • Why it matters: With pro-democracy riots in their 18th week, the app — HKmap.live — has allowed users to track police movements, then target and ambush officers. Apple determined that those uses violate both App Store policy and Hong Kong law.
  • Hong Kong authorities, who had complained about the app, said it also was being used to victimize residents in areas where police weren’t present.

The context: Earlier in the day, the Communist Party's main newspaper, the People's Daily, had criticized Apple, saying the app "facilitates illegal behavior."

  • "Is Apple guiding Hong Kong thugs?" the commentary asked, per AP.
  • The South China Morning Post, the main English-language paper in Hong Kong, reported that the app "uses crowdsourcing to track police vehicles, armed officers and incidents in which people have been injured."
  • Apps removed from the App Store continue to work, but new users can't add the app.

From Apple's statement: "Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it. The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store."

4. German synagogue shooter streamed live on Twitch

Police block access to a street near the scene of a shooting that has left 2 people dead. Photo: Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

The alleged shooter who killed 2 people outside a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Wednesday morning used the platform Twitch to livestream the attack, Amazon confirmed to CNBC.

The big picture: Twitch was designed for video gamers to livestream their activity while chatting with an audience. Livestream services like Twitch and Facebook have had to grapple with several mass shootings worldwide that have been broadcast by perpetrators to amplify the evil acts, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports. In March, a massacre at a mosque in New Zealand was circulated on Facebook.

What we know: The Halle attack occurred on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. At the time of the shooting, 70 to 80 people were inside the synagogue. Shots were also fired at a nearby kebab shop, AP notes.

  • "The root of all these problems is the Jew," the alleged shooter said in a clip shared by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization. The video runs more than half an hour, per the Post, and the footage of the attacker has not yet been confirmed by German authorities.
  • The broadcast depicts the alleged suspect, a white male, driving alone and referring to himself as "Anon" — a name that 4chan and 8chan users often use. He tells the camera in English: "I think the Holocaust never happened," Vice reports.

What they're saying:

"We can not just tolerate hatred on the internet hatred has nothing to do with freedom of expression."
— Federal Minister of the Interior of Germany Horst Seehofer said in a statement
"Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously. We are working with urgency to remove this content and permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act."
— a Twitch spokesperson told CNBC

Go deeper:

5. AT&T sells off assets in the Caribbean

As pressure mounts from an activist investor, AT&T said Wednesday it will sell its wireless and wired assets in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for about $2 billion to Liberty Latin America, Margaret reports.

Why it matters: AT&T is looking for assets to sell to alleviate debt, and analysts say the properties in the hurricane-prone islands are a logical target.

  • "Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are small markets that aren't contiguous with the rest of AT&T's properties, they're not big enterprise opportunities, and they've been whacked by hurricanes," said Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst with New Street Research.

The big picture: The company is feeling the heat after a letter from Elliott Management criticizing AT&T’s strategy and its past acquisitions.

  • AT&T said in the announcement that it would sell $6 billion to $8 billion worth of assets this year, but this deal puts the total at $11 billion.

Yes, but: "They might have surpassed their own goal. They have probably not surpassed Elliott's goal," said Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics. "And they still have to work around that. Elliott is certainly looming here in the background."

What's next: Analysts say to expect AT&T to divest more assets as it tries to stay ahead of the pressure.

6. Take note


6. After you Login

For those of us dealing with Northern California's pre-emptive blackout mess, here's a little dark Twitter humor to lighten things up.