Ryan Knutson

Trump Administration Weighs Building US 5G Network to Counter China

Some White House officials view next-generation 5G wireless service as a “key area of competition,” and they say that the threat from China, in particular, justifies a “moonshot” government effort like the construction of the interstate highway system. A National Security Council memo urges the Trump administration to consider extraordinary efforts to clear the way for the new technology or even to help build it in order to counter the growing economic and political threat from China’s aggressive efforts to develop 5G. 

Why Uber Can Find You but 911 Can’t

Software on iPhones and Android smartphones help mobile apps like Uber and Facebook to pinpoint a user’s location, making it possible to order a car, check in at a local restaurant or receive targeted advertising. But 911, with a far more pressing purpose, is stuck in the past. U.S. regulators estimate as many as 10,000 lives could be saved each year if the 911 emergency dispatching system were able to get to callers one minute faster. Better technology would be especially helpful, regulators say, when a caller can’t speak or identify his or her location.

Net Neutrality: A Case Study With JetBlue and Amazon

If you have taken a flight recently on JetBlue Airways, you might have noticed something that looks a lot like a network neutrality boogeyman: prioritization of Amazon’s videos over other services, such as Netflix or HBO, on the airline’s in-flight Wi-Fi network. It actually isn’t a violation of net neutrality, which requires all web traffic to be treated equally. But it helps explain why some fear lifting such rules will harm the internet, and why others aren’t worried at all.

Mobile-Wireless Market Might Be Our Post Net-Neutrality World

With the rules governing internet services set to be rolled back this week, service providers and their detractors are envisioning new models that could translate into a wider range of fees—both lower and higher. The current rules, expected to be all but eliminated by the Federal Communications Commission, require that internet service providers treat all traffic on their networks equally, a concept known as net neutrality.

The Inside Story of How the Sprint and T-Mobile Deal Collapsed, Again

During months of merger talks with T-Mobole, Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son sought a way to merge the two wireless rivals without really having to hand over the keys. There was discussion over inserting a provision to buy the combined company back after two years. The companies explored giving the Japanese billionaire the right to increase his stake over time. He was offered the role of co-chairman.

Amazon and Google Consider Turning Smart Speakers Into Home Phones

Amazon and Alphabet’s Google are considering a new use for their popular home speakers: becoming the home phone. Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home could be used to make or receive calls, apparently, a functionality that would give them further control over consumers’ digital lives at home. The tech giants could launch the feature in 2017, but the effort is hung up over concerns about privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services. And they are aware of the inherent awkwardness of having phone conversations on a speaker. One concern is potential consumer anxiety over speaking on a device that has the ability to record conversations, according to one of the people. People consider phone conversations to be the third most sensitive data category, after social security numbers and health conditions, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

Verizon Exploring Combination With Cable Firm Charter Communications

Apparently, Verizon Communications is exploring a combination with Charter Communications that would unite two giants in search of growth in a rapidly consolidating media and telecom landscape, according to people familiar with the matter. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam has made a preliminary approach to officials close to Charter, which has a market value of more than $80 billion. Verizon is working with advisers to study a potential transaction, the people said. There’s no guarantee a deal will materialize.

It is unclear whether Charter executives, including Chief Executive Tom Rutledge, would be open to a transaction. The effort could be complicated by Charter’s ownership structure, which includes cable tycoon John Malone and the Newhouse family. A combination would bring together Verizon’s more than 114 million wireless subscribers and what remains of its landline business with Charter’s cable network, which provides television to 17 million customers and broadband connections to 21 million. Verizon has a market capitalization of $194 billion and more than $100 billion in debt.

Call Centers May Know a Surprising Amount About You

The next time you dial customer service, who answers your call may be determined by what you have said on Facebook. Companies from casino operator Caesars Entertainment to wireless carrier Sprint are increasingly checking social media and other personal data to tailor calls for each customer. The practice, however, raises concerns among privacy advocates.

Telecom Industry Sees Relief in Trump Policy Agenda

The telecommunications industry is embracing the idea of a Trump administration. President-elect Donald Trump’s promises to reduce corporate taxes and to eliminate regulations have been welcomed by executives from an industry facing intense oversight. Four of the biggest players generate more than $340 billion in annual revenue from largely domestic operations. One key area for optimism is taxes. Verizon Communications chief Lowell McAdam recently expressed hope that the Trump administration will be able to lower the corporate rate. “We are not planning on getting into the 15% range; that would be great if it did,” McAdams said.

AT&T-Time Warner Deal Stokes Debate Over ‘Zero Rating’

AT&T’s practice of exempting its streaming video services from data-usage caps is rankling competitors and shaping up as a major issue for regulators set to weigh the company’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner.

When AT&T rolls out its $35-a-month DirecTV Now online TV service, its wireless subscribers will be able to stream as much as they want without it counting toward their monthly data caps. But if the same customers binge on outside services like Netflix or Hulu, those bits will add up—potentially leading to surcharges. Streaming services are likely to press regulators to scrutinize the practice—known as “zero rating”—in their review of the AT&T-Time Warner deal, people familiar with the matter said. TV networks that have streaming apps, like CBS and ESPN, also may have a stake in the matter. Several companies are likely to argue that AT&T’s DirecTV Now approach is anticompetitive, and will push for conditions on the merger, the people say.

Some Federal Communications Commission staffers already view AT&T’s DirecTV Now exemption as an example of improper zero-rating, people familiar with the situation said, because it disadvantages AT&T’s streaming rivals. The agency is considering how to address zero-rating and whether to raise it as a merger issue, the people said. Other options the agency is weighing include industrywide guidelines on zero-rating.