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Senate gives up on ZTE sanctions

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Shutterstock / mdgn

Though a number of US senators have been seeking to block President Trump’s deal with ZTE that lets the Chinese firm circumvent sanctions put into place by US officials earlier this year, they have now backed off on that effort. In June, the Senate passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that reinstated sanctions against ZTE and would effectively nullify the president’s and Commerce Department’s deal with the firm. However, the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill without such language and the two chambers have been working on a compromise bill that marries each of their versions. Senators have now decided to abandon the ZTE sanctions in exchange for more oversight for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS).

Earlier this year, the US banned ZTE from working with US companies after the firm shipped US-made parts to Iran and North Korea and then lied about giving executives involved in the deals large bonuses. But in June, the Commerce Department announced that it and the Trump administration had come to an agreement with ZTE and sanctions would be lifted as long as the company paid a $1 billion penalty, put $400 million in escrow, installed new directors and embedded a US-selected corporate monitor.

US lawmakers, however, weren’t satisfied with the deal and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) told the Wall Street Journal last month, “China is using its telecommunications companies as means to conduct espionage. We need to solve the larger puzzle of trade and national security in addition to the enforcement action for the violation of sanctions.” The Senate later voted 85 to 10 to reinstate sanctions. But while lawmakers have debated how to deal with ZTE, the company has been working to comply with Trump’s deal. It replaced its CEO and other executives, installed a new board of directors, signed an escrow agreement with the Commerce Department, paid its fine and installed a US-chosen monitor. Because ZTE has now completed all requirements, the Commerce Department officially lifted the ban last week.

In exchange for backing off on the ZTE sanctions, lawmakers agreed to give CFIUS more authority over deals between foreign investors and US businesses. The committee reviews foreign investments in US companies, gauging whether they represent a threat to national security, and can advise the president to block deals whenever they’re found to pose a threat. It argued against the takeover of Qualcomm by Broadcom earlier this year. The language included in the National Defense Authorization Act will give CFIUS the ability to intervene in more cases than it can now.

But some Senators aren’t pleased. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the backtrack on ZTE is an example of the president “being weak in the face of another nation’s leader while the GOP just follows along.” And Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was a proponent

Tech News

Mark Zuckerberg: CEO, billionaire, troll

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

We imagine the scene at Facebook right now is like Kim Jong-il’s funeral. Employees weeping in hallways, dripping anguished snot onto keyboards, beating their chests with unsold Facebook phones in an orgy of anguish at the injustice of media coverage regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s unprompted defense this week of giving Holocaust deniers a voice on the platform.

But I think we’ve finally figured out what’s going on at Facebook after all.

You know that guy. The one who pops into a chill online community and makes everyone miserable. The one who says he’s “just asking questions” about women able to do math, black people and evolution, shooting victims and paid actors, the validity of the Holocaust.

He’s the one that mods have to kick out for “JAQing off” (“Just Asking Questions”) because he clearly has bad intentions to harm the community and recruit hate. The troll who feigns naïveté and uses free speech as a foil.

This week we learned that if you give that guy a platform for his voice, he’ll out himself real fast. Right now, headlines blare Zuckerberg in Holocaust denial row and Fortune 500 C.E.O. Says Holocaust Deniers Must Be Given “a Voice”.

To be clear, on Tuesday Zuckerberg gave a wandering kid-glove interview with Kara Swisher of Recode, the same day Facebook’s representatives went to the mat to avoid telling the House Judiciary Committee exactly how InfoWars gets to stay on Facebook while it pretends to decry hate speech.

Zuckerberg told Recode that Facebook won’t ban Holocaust deniers or race-war conspiracy propagators like InfoWars just because they’re “getting it wrong.” Also, booting them would go against his and Facebook’s “responsibility” to “give people a voice.” Even in his next-day backtracking, Mr. Zuckerberg and his company doubled-down on giving that guy a safe space, a voice, and a platform.

As Matt Ford at The Atlantic tweeted, in the original interview Zuckerberg wasn’t even asked about his company’s policy of fostering Holocaust denial, “he just said he’d keep it on Facebook on his own.”

So, I guess that was Zuckerberg’s last podcast? pic.twitter.com/niUS5NPuQR

— Mat Honan (@mat) July 19, 2018

Then came the headlines. Quickly followed by Mark Zuckerberg pulling a Trump, telling his softball interviewer that he misspoke. “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote in a warm personal email to Kara Swisher.

We imagine loyal Facebook employees on the floor in the breakroom, tearing up chunks of rubber floor mats and chewing them, swallowing through their own howls and moans, sobbing. “No one understands what Mark really means,” they cry.

But we all know that one way to double-down is to split hairs. It’s the hallmark of trolling. It’s what that guy is really good at.

Nowhere is this more clear than this week’s Channel Four (UK) Dispatches episode Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network. The episode

Tech News

FCC opens public comments on T-Mobile-Sprint merger

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Tak Yeung via Getty Images

If you have a strong opinion on the proposed $26 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, now’s your chance to tell the FCC exactly what you think of the plan. The agency is accepting comments as well as formal petitions to deny the merger until August 27th. Following that, the companies and supporters of the deal can file oppositions to those petitions by September 17th, while a final round of replies has a deadline of October 9th, as the schedule currently stands.

Anyone can file petitions to deny, and you might expect to see some from consumer advocacy groups and industry experts who may be concerned over the reduction in the number of national carriers from four to three. The FCC has laid out a 180-day review timeline to determine whether the merger is in the public interest, but that’s more of a guideline and there’s no required deadline for the agency to issue a decision.

While the Trump version of the FCC is generally more business-friendly than the previous incarnation, there’s no guarantee the agency will rubberstamp the T-Mobile and Sprint tie-up. Just this week, the FCC effectively ended Sinclair’s chance of merging with Tribune Media over concerns about TV station ownership.

Tech News

Dish customers can chat with service reps through iMessage

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

DISH Network Corporation

Dish announced today that its customers can now chat with service representatives through Apple’s Business Chat messaging service. Apple launched Business Chat earlier this year and it lets companies interact with their customers through iMessage. So far, companies that have begun providing support through Business Chat include Discover, The Home Depot, Hilton, Lowe’s, T-Mobile and Wells Fargo. Dish says that its customers will be able to ask live agents questions, make account changes, schedule appointments and order pay-per-view movies and sporting events with Business Chat.

“TV should be simple, so we’ve made reaching our live customer service representatives as easy as sending a text,” Dish COO John Swieringa said in a statement. “Adding messaging with Apple Business Chat is a powerful way to connect with us, giving another choice so you can pick what fits with your life.” Message threads will remain open until customers delete them from their Messages app and conversations can be picked up at any time.

To contact Dish through Business Chat, your device must be running iOS 11.3 or higher. Just search for Dish on your iPhone or iPad and tap the Messages icon that shows up next to the Dish search result. Dish says that it will soon launch the ability for customers to open a chat through the contact page of the MyDish app.

Tech News

AT&T expands its 5G network to North Carolina and Kansas City

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Education Images via Getty Images

AT&T’s mobile 5G network will expand to three new cities this year. Folks in two of North Carolina’s biggest population centers — Charlotte (above) and Raleigh — and those in Kansas City will have access to the faster wireless signal. Previously, it announced Atlanta, and Dallas and Waco in Texas. “We’re deliberately launching with a mix of big and mid-sized cities,” AT&T said in a press release. “All Americans should have access to next-gen connectivity to avoid a new digital divide.”

In addition to news about “real” 5G, AT&T also shed some light on the status of its pseudo-5G network. Another eight cities have come online with LTE-LAA today: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, San Antonio, San Jose, Tampa and Tuscaloosa.

Back in January, the telco announced that its new true 5G network would be available in a dozen cities by year’s end. Now to start speculating what combination of burgeoning metropolises and smaller burgs will gain access.

Tech News

Apple, Fitbit and Sonos could feel the sting of Trump tariffs

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Chris Velazco / Engadget

Some wearables and smart speakers could soon face a price increase because of US tariffs on Chinese goods, according to US Customs and Border Protection classifications. Reuters reported that Apple Watch, Fitbit devices and some Sonos speakers fall under a “data transmission machines” subheading in a list of 6,000 tariff codes proposed earlier this month.

Customs rulings specifically declare that Apple Watch; Fitbit Charge, Charge HR and Surge; and Sonos Play:3, Play:5 and SUB fall under that subheading. The most recent list of tariffs relate to $200 billion worth of goods and are in a public comment period. If they go into effect in the fall, there could be a 10 percent tariff imposed on all those products.

Apple, Fitbit and Sonos most definitely won’t want to eat that cost, so if the tariffs take effect, it’s likely their devices will see a price hike, with consumers getting hit in the pocket. In its S-1 filing earlier this month as Sonos prepares for its IPO, the company warned that “the imposition of tariffs and other trade barriers, as well as retaliatory trade measures, could require us to raise the prices of our products and harm our sales.”

The tech industry as a whole is wrestling with increased costs because of the trade war with China. Tesla has moved to combat tariffs by raising prices in China.

President Trump has been accused by a Consumer Technology Association vice president of targeting select products and companies with the tariffs. According to the New York Times, Trump recently told Apple CEO Tim Cook that the government would not impose tariffs on iPhones made in China — the president switched from Android to Apple’s smartphone last year.

However, the Apple, Fitbit and Sonos devices may not all still fall under the “data transmission machines” subheading. Some of the products have new models that could have a different classification. Otherwise, there are three ways out of the tariff for the firms: try to get the code nixed from the list during the public comment period, apply for an exclusion, or attempt to get their devices reclassified under a code not on the list.

Tech News

Musk disputes rumors that Model 3 cancellations are outpacing orders

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Stephen Lam / Reuters

Tesla’s Model 3 production rate has been a topic of interest for some time, but lately, so has the company’s order rates. Following an analyst’s suggestion that Tesla was now receiving more cancellations than orders, CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to dispel that notion, giving a glimpse into Tesla’s order numbers that are rarely shared by either the company or its CEO. In his tweet, Musk said that last week Tesla had over 2,000 orders for its Model S and Model X vehicles as well as 5,000 new net orders for its Model 3, which are healthy rates if accurate.

Dunno where this bs is coming from. Who knows about the future, but last week we had over 2000 S/X and 5000 Model 3 *new* net orders.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2018

Model 3 production has been affected by significant delays and pauses, but earlier this month, the company revealed that it had finally reached the 5,000 vehicles per week rate it had been working towards for some time. Last week, Tesla opened up its ordering system for the Model 3 — with the exception of the base $35,000 model — to everyone in North America, and shortened delivery times for new orders of certain models. However, the $7,500 federal tax credit that customers have enjoyed until now will begin phasing out next year.

Tech News

Microsoft's strong quarter was powered by the cloud, Surface and Xbox

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s honestly getting a bit tough to write about Microsoft’s quarterly earnings without sounding like a broken record. For years, its booming cloud business has pushed revenues higher, and the same is true for the past fourth quarter. The company reports that its revenue is up 17 percent from last year, reaching $30.1 billion compared to just $25.6 billion. Mostly, that’s due to the continued strength of its cloud segment, which is up 23 percent ($9.6 billion) compared to last year.

Additionally, its More Personal Computing group, which includes Windows, Surface and Xbox, increased by 17 percent ($10.8 billion). Drilling down a bit, the Surface line continued to have a strong year with 25 percent revenue growth, while gaming revenues increased by a surprising 39 percent. The company points to third-party titles as a big reason for the growth. But really, it’s probably all about Fortnite.

Tech News

FCC vote likely dooms Sinclair-Tribune merger

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

The FCC has voted to send the proposed sale of Tribune Media properties to Sinclair to a hearing, effectively hammering the second-to-last nail in the coffin on the buyout. The agency’s commissioners unanimously agreed on a Hearing Designation Order (HDO), which re fers the matter to a judge — at which point mergers usually die.

Earlier this week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai raised “serious concerns” about Sinclair’s selloff of 21 stations it had proposed in order to remain under station ownership limits post-merger. Had Sinclair declined to sell off some stations, its 173 broadcast stations in 81 markets, combined with Tribune’s 42 stations in 33 markets would reach 72 percent of US TV households.

The FCC’s National TV Ownership rule “does not limit the number of TV stations a single entity may own nationwide so long as the station group collectively reaches no more than 39 percent of all US TV households.” But the rule is more flexible for stations that broadcast using UHF frequencies.

Pai, who has been accused of aiding the merger by relaxing the ownership regulations, said Monday that Sinclair’s plan would allow the company “to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.” He noted that, “When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction.”

The order lays out some valid concerns over some of the stations Sinclair planned to sell, particularly related to stations in Chicago, Dallas and Houston. Sinclair removed applications related to stations in those three cities Wednesday, but one of them laid out a plan to “transfer WGN-TV in Chicago to an individual (Steven Fader) with no prior experience in broadcasting who currently serves as CEO of a company in which Sinclair’s executive chairman has a controlling interest.” Sinclair still would have owned most of WGN-TV’s assets, and largely would have been responsible for running it.

That application included a buyback clause for Sinclair (which it would presumably would have taken up had station ownership rules changed down the line), and suggests Fader would buy the station at far below market value for “the station license and certain other minimal assets.” The HDO raises similar concerns with Cunningham Broadcast Corporation, which was to buy some other stations.

The judge to whom the order refers the case will determine whether Sinclair would still effectively control some of the stations it planned to sell. The judge should rule within the next month or so on a timeframe for the hearings.

Tech News

DC's streaming service will cost $8 per month

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

DC Comics

We’ve known for awhile now that DC Comics, home of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, was working on its own streaming service to house its TV shows and movies. Now, DC has released more details on the service. DC Universe will be priced at $75 per year or $8 per month. It will arrive this fall, and those interested can pre-order a subscription at DCUniverse.com.

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DC also released a trailer for Titans, a grittier darker version of Teen Titans, which will be exclusive to the service. Other content that has been newly confirmed for the service is Batman Beyond (1999), Justice League (animated series) (2001–2004) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008–2011). That’s in addition to what has been already announced, such as access to a rotating selection of comics, Batman: The Animated Series, the Christopher Nolan Batman movies and more.

Even with the announced content, the pricing feels like a big ask. If the service came with the bulk of DC’s comic backlist, like Marvel Unlimited, it would be a better deal. But with the service as it is now, is there enough content to really justify yet another video streaming subscription priced at $8 per month? And are there enough dedicated DC Comics fans out there to support it? Only time can tell us whether this will be a success.