Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
August 6, 2021
Good morning! This Friday, who wins and who loses in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, people love a four-day workweek, and ByteDance is shutting down some of its education offerings to comply with China's edtech rules.
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The Big Story
It's infrastructure week
There's a little something — and in some cases, a lotta something — for everyone in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that's currently getting hammered out in the Senate.
The $1 trillion bill includes $550 billion in new spending, giving anyone from telecom giants to device manufacturers a lot to like. But even in a bill that stretches more than 2,700 pages long, not everyone got what they wanted.
Who's winning? Telecom giants, but mostly Comcast. The bill includes a whopping $65 billion to expand broadband connectivity, including a $42.5 billion grant program that will directly fund broadband deployment in unserved and underserved parts of the country. There's also more than $14 billion set aside in internet subsidies for low-income Americans.
- In theory, this is good news for all the telecom giants. But the one that's best positioned to seize the moment is Comcast.
- "They have a head start because they invested 10 years ago in trying to accomplish the same goal, which is trying to get the currently unconnected people online," says Blair Levin, former executive director of the National Broadband Plan and current policy adviser to New Street research.
Tesla and Proterra, the country's leading e-bus maker, also come out on top. The infrastructure bill sets aside $7.5 billion to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations across the country.
- Tesla's superchargers are everywhere, but until last month, they were open only to Tesla vehicles. Not so coincidentally, Elon Musk recently announced that that was about to change. That makes Tesla eligible for some of that $7.5 billion in the bill, which requires that eligible stations "serve vehicles produced by more than one vehicle manufacturer."
- Proterra also stands out as a winner, given the bill's $5 billion investment in low- and zero-emission school buses.
Then, of course, there's Amazon. (Disclosure: My husband works for Amazon.) The ecommerce giant has been on an infrastructure lobbying blitz this year, spending nearly $10 million on infrastructure issues in the first six months of 2021, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
- Amazon's a tech company, sure, but few companies are quite as dependent on the country's actual physical infrastructure — ie. roads and bridges — as Amazon is.
- Jeff Bezos had been an early proponent of Biden's $2 trillion plan, when it was introduced in the spring, writing in a statement, "We support the Biden administration's focus on making bold investments in American infrastructure."
If you run a cybersecurity company, the bill is also probably good for you. It includes $1 billion in grant funding to be administered over four years by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
- The funding is also a boost for CISA, a relatively young government agency that's taking a leading role in addressing a spate of ransomware attacks that have crippled physical infrastructure, from oil pipelines to hospitals.
- Increased funding for states will, of course, help cybersecurity vendors. But it also stands to benefit a much broader range of tech companies, as states look to replace legacy systems that often lead to vulnerabilities.
OK, so what about the losers? Things are about to get harder for crypto exchanges.
- Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong broke his own no-politics rule with a feisty Twitter thread, objecting to a part of the bill that would require even miners and node operators to report their transactions to the IRS like traditional brokers. Such a provision would "have a profound negative impact on crypto in the US and unintentionally push more innovation offshore," Armstrong wrote.
- A trio of senators introduced an amendment to exempt miners and some others from the requirement, which Armstrong and The Blockchain Association, which is made up of more than 100 crypto companies and groups, supported.
Municipal broadband networks lose out, too. When President Biden first introduced his infrastructure plan, proponents of municipal networks had high hopes that the bill might radically redefine the market by prioritizing government-run networks and infusing the telecom industry with a raft of new, more affordable competitors. But those provisions dropped out of the bipartisan deal.
- The bill doesn't write municipal networks out completely. It says states cannot exclude them when it's considering which providers to give funding to.
- In theory, that could mean a leg up for these networks in states with explicit bans on municipal broadband. But in practice, Levin said, "There may be a tendency to say, 'In this competitive program, they're all eligible. They just didn't win.'"
— Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)
A version of this story originally appeared on Protocol.com.
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People Are Talking
The FTC doesn't buy Facebook's explanation for banning NYU researchers from the platform:
- "Had you honored your commitment to contact us in advance, we would have pointed out that the consent decree does not bar Facebook from creating exceptions for good-faith research in the public interest. Indeed, the FTC supports efforts to shed light on opaque business practices, especially around surveillance-based advertising."
Even if other countries start using it, Christopher Waller doesn't think the United States needs a digital currency:
- "I see no reason to expect that the world will flock to a Chinese CBDC or any other. Why would non-Chinese firms suddenly desire to have all their financial transactions monitored by the Chinese government?"
Huawei's revenue dropped almost 30%, in part thanks to U.S. blacklists, and chairman Eric Xu said the worst isn't over:
- "Our aim is to survive, and to do so sustainably."
Continental AG's Nikolai Setzer is feeling the chip shortage:
- "The chip supply shortage and rising raw material prices will weigh on the automotive industry for all of 2021."
On Protocol | Workplace: Remote work is pushing a four-day work week, 4 Day Week campaign officer Joe Ryle says:
- "It's going to be quite stark for people to go back to the office. People are now realizing that's not the way you should be living our lives."
China is planning to fine Meituan about $1 billion. Antitrust regulators will accuse the company of abusing its dominant position in the delivery space, the Wall Street Journal reported, and could force huge changes within the company.
Elizabeth Holmes had a baby. (Congrats!) The Theranos founder's trial is scheduled to begin in a few weeks, and there's plenty of speculation that the timing is ... not a coincidence.
Larry Page is a New Zealand resident. He applied for a special visa last November, Stuff reported, and now has to invest at least $10 million in the country.
Sara Clemens is leaving Twitch after four years as COO. Clemens told staffers that she's now focused on consulting and serving on company boards.
Dylan Loewe is Apple's new PR director and Tim Cook's speechwriter. He previously wrote speeches for Joe Biden.
Ramzi Ramsey and Mike Kirkman are joining Blackstone as managing directors. Ramsey previously worked at SoftBank, and Kirkman comes from GI Partners.
In Other News
- Amazon announced the latest back-to-work delay, moving its return date from September to next January. Unlike some of its peers, it's not mandating vaccines.
- Meanwhile, Uber's vaccine mandate … isn't mandatory for drivers. Despite requiring a vaccine for Uber's corporate employees, the company said it contracts too many drivers to enforce the same rule.
- The U.S. wants Big Tech to help fight ransomware attacks. Federal officials brought in companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft to join the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, which is trying to develop cyber defense tactics.
- Joe Biden thinks electric cars are the future. He signed an executive order yesterday that sets a goal for the United States to sell half of all vehicles as electric by 2030.
- Security experts don't think Apple's child privacy tool will work. The company plans to introduce a tool later this year that would detect whether a photo sent to and by a child's device contains child abuse images, but privacy researchers think it could give people easier access to personal data.
- ByteDance laid off hundreds of employees as China tightens rules around the edtech business. Some employees working on edtech products like Guagua Long and Qingbei were laid off with compensation, and GoGoKid is completely closed down.
- Foxconn is buying a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Taiwan that produces 6-inch wafers used in cars. It's one of the company's latest pushes into the chip industry and electric car manufacturing.
- Olympians are cashing in on social media. Unlike previous Olympic games, athletes can now publicly sponsor brands on their social media accounts during the competition, thanks to a recent rule change by the International Olympic Committee.
- On Protocol: Mapbox organizers lost their union vote, just a couple months after a group of employees announced they had formed a union. Despite the outcome of the election, the group said it'll continue to represent employees.
One More Thing
Checking for vaccination cards
Most indoor places in New York City now require proof of COVID-19 vaccination, but the rule isn't in place everywhere. If you're anywhere but the Big Apple, Yelp is trying to help you figure out where you should bring your vaccination card.
The company is letting businesses indicate whether they require a proof of vaccination, and whether the company's staff is fully vaccinated. Businesses on Yelp aren't required to fill it out, but it's one way to help narrow down your next hangout location.
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- Protecting people's privacy
- Enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms
- Preventing election interference
- Reforming Section 230
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