Why a T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Would Be Bad for the Public

Earlier this week, FCC chair Ajit Pai announced that he would soon be asking his fellow commissioners to approve the merger of two of the four nationwide wireless carriers, T-Mobile and Sprint. After a year of deliberation, including thousands of pages of legal and economic filings by proponents and opponents and three congressional hearings, Pai has now decided that a handful of promises, made just days ago by the merging parties, puts this $26 billion transaction in the public interest. And it appears that at least two of his fellow commissioners agree with him.

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Gigi Sohn(@gigibsohn) is a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy, a Benton senior fellow, and former counselor to FCC chair Tom Wheeler.

But these promises are speculative, unsubstantiated, and entirely unenforceable. For example, T-Mobile and Sprint commit to deploying a new 5G network that would cover 97 percent of Americans within three years of the closing of the deal, and 99 [...]  read more

The False Promise of “Lawful Access” to Private Data

A stark reality keeps confronting us: Terrible things are being done in the world. The darkest impulses of some people are honed and polished on the internet, in secret. Then those impulses are visited upon us, in violent and sickening ways. One of the most recent such tragedies, as I write, happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, but there might be another by the time you read this. Every time, we all want to know the same thing: What is to be done about this?

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p class=”paywall”>Many are trying to figure this very thing out. On Wednesday, the leaders of New Zealand and France organized a meeting with various other heads of state to discuss “The Christchurch Call,” a global pact to crack down on extremist content online. Ahead of the summit, Facebook announced that users violating certain policies by the platform will be restricted from using Facebook Live, a service that was used by the shooter in New Zealand to broadcast the terror attack.

But [...]  read more

When Coding Is Criminal

A federal district court in Illinois recently dismissed the US government’s case against Jitesh Thakkar, a computer programmer who was accused of writing code that someone else used to commit a crime. But programmers at large are hardly off the legal hook. Expect more cases against them in the not-too-distant future.

Thakkar was one of seven individuals whom the U.S. Justice Department last January charged with the crime of “spoofing”—that is, in this instance, using an algorithm to trick a market. Thakkar was accused of creating an algorithm that enabled a London trader to artificially overstate demand for stock market futures. Aided by another developer’s software, this tactic sparked the 2010 “flash crash” that saw the US stock market lose $1 trillion in value in just 36 minutes.

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Stephen J. Obie is a partner at Jones Day and a leader of the firm’s blockchain initiative. This article represents the personal views and [...]  read more

In Automation, the Last Motion Will Come Before the Last Mile

We talk a lot these days about using robots to manage the problem of the “last mile.” Say, getting a package to a doorstep from a local delivery center. Or picking up garbage from a backyard. Or delivering pizza.

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Matt Beane is an Assistant Professor of Technology Management at UC Santa Barbara and a Research Affiliate at MIT’s Institute for the Digital Economy.

The demo videos from the companies creating these kinds of robots are cool and compelling, and the business case for developing them seems strong—why rely on a human to handle the last mile of a global supply chain when cars, drones and other small vehicles are getting so good at autonomous navigation? Especially when almost everything before the last mile is cheap and reliable: we build and maintain massive, interconnected global infrastructures for extracting materials from the natural environment (milk, tomatoes), refining them (making cheese and tomato sauce), transforming them (making [...]  read more

Noisy Quantum Computers Could Be Good for Chemistry Problems

Scientists and researchers have long extolled the extraordinary potential capabilities of universal quantum computers, like simulating physical and natural processes, or breaking cryptographic codes in practical timeframes. Yet important developments in the technology—the ability to fabricate the necessary number of high-quality qubits (basic units of quantum information) and gates (elementary operations between qubits)—is most likely still decades away.

However, there is a class of quantum devices—ones that currently exist—that could address otherwise intractable problems much sooner than that. These near-term quantum devices, coined Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) by Caltech professor John Preskill, are single-purpose, highly-imperfect, and modestly-sized devices.

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Dr. Anton Toutov is the co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Fuzionaire and holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Caltech. You can follow him at @AntonToutov.

Dr. [...]  read more

The Construction Industry Needs a Robot Revolution

In debates about the future of work, technology is often portrayed as the villain. One recent study calculated that 38 percent of jobs in the United States were at a “high risk” of being automated during the next decade. In the construction industry, predictions are especially dire: estimates of robot-fueled joblessness range from 24 percent in Britain to 41percent in Germany.

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Borja García de Soto is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), a Global Network Assistant Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and Director of NYUAD’s S.M.A.R.T. Construction Research Group.

There is no question that automation will change the way people work, but for some sectors of the economy, change is long overdue. Nowhere is this truer than in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC).

For an industry with nearly $10 trillion in annual revenue—about  [...]  read more

Right to Repair Is Now a National Issue

“Right to repair just basically says, ‘Hey guys, you got to make the information and the parts available.’” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, appearing on All In with Chris Hayes, Wednesday March, 27.

Our work to help people fix their stuff reached a milestone last week, when Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren called for Right to Repair to support farmers struggling with growing antitrust issues in agriculture.

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Nathan Proctor (@nProctor) is director of the Right to Repair Campaign for U.S. PIRG, an advocacy organization.

Warren has raised Right to Repair to a new level of national prominence. It’s a big moment for those of us who have been sounding the alarm on how companies have been placing obstacles in the way of repair, and the resulting hassle, cost and environmental damage.

I would like to claim that somehow our organizing efforts (led by iFixit, Repair.org and U.S. PIRG) brought us to this moment, but the best organizing done to support Right to Repair [...]  read more

Utah Just Became a Leader in Digital Privacy

With so much of our lives lived online, people have often assumed that the pictures, financial documents, and other sensitive information we store on our password-protected phones and computers are kept private. But every day, it seems there’s a new data breach, or another story about our information being passed around in ways we couldn’t imagine.

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Molly Davis is a policy analyst at Libertas Institute, a policy think tank in Utah. She’s a writer for Young Voices, and her work has previously appeared in The Hill, the Washington Examiner, and the Salt Lake Tribune.

As a result, there’s been an emerging public distrust in the platforms that hold so much of this information, and increased interest by federal and state legislators on how to protect the public’s privacy. So far, government  [...]  read more

The Deeper Education Issue Under the College Bribery Scandal

The college admissions bribery scandal has all the components of a made for TV movie, including suspense, celebrities, and unexpected twists and turns. Behind the broken admissions process and the drama, however, a different educational crisis is looming. According to a 2018 Korn Ferry study, by 2030, there could be a global talent shortage of more than 85.2 million people, costing an estimated $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenue. In the US alone, the study forecasts $1.7 trillion in lost revenue due to labor shortages—roughly 6 percent of the entire economy.

The scandal du jour makes it easy to wag fingers and focus on the foibles of prominent helicopter parents, but perhaps we should be having a different discussion about how to level the educational playing field. The often-cited solution to the global labor shortage—upskilling, where employees or the unemployed learn new skills—is only viable if people have access to education.

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Sebastian [...]  read more

Corporations Are Co-Opting Right-to-Repair

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

As an advocate, organizer, and campaigner for preschool access, tax fairness, plastic pollution and other causes for the last 14 years, I’ve heard this saying many times. You tell it to your volunteers when it looks like your movement has hit a wall or when it looks like your opposition has the upper hand, and you want to show your teammates that many people have faced obstacles before, and overcome them.

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Nathan Proctor (@nProctor) is director of the Right to Repair Campaign for U.S. PIRG, an advocacy organization.

The saying is often true, but some of my savvier adversaries see another option.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you… But then, as a last ditch effort, they co-opt you.”

They take your language and your messaging to support something that’s maybe 10 percent of what you asked for (sometimes it’s not at all what you [...]  read more