FCC and DOJ may agree on Sprint, T-Mobile merger – New York Post

When it comes to T-Mobile and Sprint, President Trump’s top regulators may be more closely aligned than previously thought.

Before making this week’s surprise announcement that he supported the controversial, $26 billion merger between the telecom giants, Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, “consulted” with Makan Delrahim, the head of the antitrust division at the Department of Justice, sources told The Post.

Details of the conversation between Pai and Delrahim couldn’t immediately be learned. But the fact that the pair were speaking ahead of Pai’s bombshell is a signal that Delrahim may be poised to overrule a recommendation from the DOJ’s staff to block the deal, according to sources.

“I do think it signals that the merger is going to happen,” said David Scharf, vice chairman at New York law firm Morrison Cohen, whom Trump once considered for a senior DOJ position.

If Pai and Delrahim did speak before Pai’s announcement, “That information confirms that the DOJ feels there is a negotiable transaction,” Scharf said.

Both the FCC and the DOJ must approve the tie-up, which would cut the number of players in the US telecom industry to three from four, with Verizon and AT&T poised to keep the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively.

Critics have accused Delrahim of acting on the wishes of the Oval Office, citing as an example the DOJ’s failed lawsuit to stop the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Scharf notes that the White House seems pleased with the concessions T-Mobile has offered to gain FCC approval of the merger.

T-Mobile’s key promise is to roll out 5G wireless service to 97 percent of the country within three years — a goal that should sit well with Trump’s rural voters.

Consumer advocates fret that the deal will squelch competition for US wireless customers, who already pay significantly higher rates than consumers in Europe’s more fragmented telecom sector. Proponents, including Pai, have cited the importance of an accelerated 5G rollout.

According to sources, DOJ staff hasn’t relented in its opposition to the deal, arguing that it’s anticompetitive. T-Mobile, meanwhile, hasn’t offered any fresh concessions to regulators in the past few months, according to one source close to the talks.

That includes T-Mobile’s agreement to sell Sprint’s lower-priced, prepaid wireless service Boost Mobile — a concession that was revealed earlier this week.

Nevertheless, whether the DOJ files a lawsuit to block the merger is ultimately Delrahim’s decision.

It’s still possible, sources said, that Delrahim will extract additional concessions in exchange for his final OK. His staff, in particular, has been pushing to cap the combined company’s wireless prices for as long as seven years instead of the three that got blessed by the FCC.

Delrahim has voiced his distaste for such “behavioral remedies,” which would require regulatory oversight, instead favoring “structural” remedies that force the sale of assets. But the FCC’s expected approval with conditions — including the 5G rollout at the three-year price cap — will relieve the DOJ of those enforcement duties, instead leaving them with the FCC.

“It will be hard for Makan to argue this will have a bad impact on competition when the FCC enforces these conditions,” a source working with T-Mobile and Sprint said. “The DOJ will clear this unconditionally.”

Sprint shares in morning trading were at $6.99. If the merger is approved, Sprint shareholders would receive $7.80.

A DOJ spokesman declined comment.

Read More

Autonomous vehicle pioneer doubles down on technology Tesla CEO Elon Musk calls ‘freaking stupid’ – CNBC

Chris Urmson, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aurora Innovation Inc.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A pioneer in autonomous driving is doubling down on a self-driving technology called lidar that uses sensors to help navigate through traffic — just a few weeks after Tesla CEO Elon Musk called the technology “freaking stupid.”

Aurora CEO Chris Urmson said his company bought Blackmore, which develops and manufactures the sensors, for an undisclosed sum. Light detection and ranging technology uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure the distance of objects from cars, drones and other gadgets.

“Lidar is critical for developing the safest and most reliable self-driving system, one that can navigate our roads more safely than a human driver,” Urmson said in a statement announcing the acquisition of Blackmore.

Urmson’s belief in lidar is important given his track record and reputation developing autonomous vehicles. For years, Urmson ran the Google self-driving car project that was later named Waymo, the autonomous-vehicle company which is widely regarded as the leader in driverless cars. Urmson left Google in 2016 shortly before the tech giant rebranded its self-driving car program.

Urmson’s endorsement of lidar technology stands in stark contrast to the opinion of the Tesla CEO. In April, Musk was outlining his company’s plan to have up to a 1 million robotaxi Teslas that will be completely autonomous.

Close-up of self driving minivan, with LIDAR and other sensor units and logo visible, part of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, driving past historic railroad station with sign reading Mountain View, in the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, California, with safety driver visible, October 28, 2018.

Smith Collection/Gado | Archive Photos | Getty Images

The key to that plan is Tesla’s autopilot technology. Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot system relies primarily on cameras that see the road and feed data to the car’s computers, which in turn help navigate the car through traffic. Tesla’s autopilot does not use lidar, which is a suite of sensors capable of seeing around cars and trucks to help autonomous vehicles steer through traffic.

“In cars it is freaking stupid. It is expensive and unnecessary,” Musk said of the lidar technology. “Once you solve vision, it is worthless.”

Aurora, Waymo, General Motor’s Cruise and other automakers and tech firms find Musk’s vision of lidar to be short-sighted and wrong. They’ve invested heavily in using lidar in the autonomous vehicles and technology they are developing and testing.

In the case of Aurora, Urmson says Blackmore’s lidar “can see further with less power, measure velocity instantaneously, and are less susceptible to the challenges associated with heavy weather.

WATCH: Best way to get autonomous vehicles on the road

CNBC’s Meghan Reeder contributed to this article.

Read More

Amazon investors reject call to limit facial recognition system sales – Engadget

Law enforcement agencies in Florida and Oregon have already piloted Rekognition, while Amazon reportedly pitched the system to ICE. Amazon and Microsoft have both called for government oversight of facial recognition, while San Francisco banned the tech this month. Meanwhile, protestors and Amazon employees demonstrated outside the meeting.

Amid a number of non-binding votes, shareholders also rejected a proposal for Amazon to commission an independent report on the impact of government use of Rekognition. Amazon’s board had urged investors to vote against both proposals. As TechCrunch notes, the votes seemed doomed from the outset. CEO Jeff Bezos holds 12 percent of stock as well as the voting control on his ex-wife’s shares. Amazon’s top four institutional shareholders have roughly the same combined voting rights as Bezos.

Shareholders voted down all the other proposals put forward at the meeting, including a request for the company to detail its efforts on how it addresses “hate speech and the sale of offensive products throughout its businesses.” They rejected a call for Amazon to produce a report on its carbon footprint and fossil fuel use, along with how it’s tackling climate change.

Investors also declined to back a measure urging Amazon to change how it reports gender pay disparities. Board directors recommended that shareholders vote against all of those measures. A filing laying out tallies for each of the votes is expected on Friday.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Read More

Chevy is bringing back the seat belt interlock, this time for teens – Fox News

Chevrolet wants you to buckle up so badly that it’s willing to annoy you. Well, your kids.

The automaker is rolling out a 21st century take on the much-maligned seat belt interlock this year.

(Chevrolet)

The new version is called Buckle to Drive and incorporated into the standard Teen Driver safety system. Unlike the 1970s version, it will let a driver start the car, but not shift into drive until they fasten their belt. At least not immediately.

After 20 seconds, the vehicle will work normally, but Chevrolet said testing has proved that’s long enough to nudge drivers to do the right thing rather than wait. It’s been offering a similar system on some commercial fleet models since 2015, so it has plenty of experience with how it is used in the real world.

(Chevrolet)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that over 2,000 lives could be saved if drivers of all ages wore their seatbelts all of the time.

Buckle to Drive is one of several features available in Teen Driver, which is linked to a specific keyfob and can also mute the radio when seatbelts are undone, set off an alarm if you break a certain speed and limit the top speed to 85 mph. Car owners can choose which, if any, are activated.

It’ll be launching this year on the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse, Malibu and Colorado with more models likely to follow.

FOLLOW FOX NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK

Read More