Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — 5G delayed again near airports

Today is Tuesday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. 

Follow The Hill’s tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. 

Verizon and AT&T have delayed their 5G rollout near key airports across the country after airlines warned of potential “catastrophic” disruptions for passenger flights and the global supply chain with the deployment of the new service.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department announced a joint inquiry targeting illegal mergers and Microsoft announced its acquisition of Activision Blizzard in a transaction valued at nearly $70 billion.

Let’s jump into the news. 

AT&T, Verizon push back 5G deployment 

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Verizon and AT&T agreed to temporarily delay their 5G deployment near key airports to avoid interruptions to air travel.
 
“This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled,” President Biden said in statement.  

The new 5G wireless service was set to deploy on Wednesday, and airlines and cargo carriers have warned the deployment could ground flights. They urged officials to prevent 5G from being implemented within 2 miles of affected airports until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) figures out a way for affected airplanes to fly safely. 

Read more about Biden’s comments here.

WHAT THE COMPANIES ARE SAYING

“At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the [Federal Aviation Administration] FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment,” an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement. 

AT&T told The Hill in an email that it had “temporarily deferred turning on C-Band transmitters within a 2-mile radius of the airport runways specified by the FAA,” though the telecommunications giant did not disclose the affected airports. 

Verizon, in their own statement, said it “voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports.” 

Verizon’s statement also did not detail which airports are affected. 

Read more here

 

FTC, DOJ join forces on merger inquiry

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice’s antitrust division on Tuesday launched a new inquiry aimed at updating guidelines to block illegal mergers. 

Weigh in: The agencies are seeking public input to update guidelines over the next 60 days. 

“Illegal mergers can inflict a host of harms, from higher prices and lower wages to diminished opportunity, reduced innovation and less resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. 

“We need to understand why so many industries have too few competitors, and to think carefully about how to ensure our merger enforcement tools are fit for purpose in the modern economy,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter added. 

The inquiry comes amid a surge in new mergers, filings for which doubled between 2020 and 2021. 

The two agencies tasked with antitrust enforcement spent 18 months reviewing their joint guidance on vertical mergers during the Trump administration. The FTC voted last fall to withdraw those guidelines on a party-line vote. 

The Department of Justice separately said it intends to review guidelines for both vertical mergers — referring to acquisitions within the same supply chain — and horizontal ones, which deal with competitors. 

Read more here 

MICROSOFT BUYS ACTIVISION BLIZZARD

Microsoft is buying game publisher Activision Blizzard in a transaction valued at nearly $70 billion, the tech company announced Tuesday 

The acquisition comes months after workers at the gaming company came forward with allegations of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination in a lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 

Microsoft said the acquisition will accelerate the company’s growth across the gaming business and, when complete, will make Microsoft the third-largest gaming company by revenue behind Tencent and Sony. 

Microsoft is buying game publisher Activision Blizzard in a transaction valued at nearly $70 billion, the tech company announced Tuesday 

The acquisition comes months after workers at the gaming company came forward with allegations of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination in a lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 

Microsoft said the acquisition will accelerate the company’s growth across the gaming business and, when complete, will make Microsoft the third-largest gaming company by revenue behind Tencent and Sony. 

Read more here. 

BIG TECH CRITICS LAUNCH ‘OVERSIGHT PROJECT’

A collection of critics of Big Tech companies on Tuesday launched the Tech Oversight Project, a new group focused on pushing regulation through Congress. 

The group is being funded primarily by the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and the Economic Security Project, a nonprofit led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. 

Both former tech executives have been critical of the current iteration of Big Tech and have pushed for greater regulation. 

The new organization will take a “campaign-style” approach to the issue, including polling, rapid response and paid media to try to push lawmakers toward policy. 

The first major issue the Tech Oversight Project will focus on is antitrust reform. 

Read more here 

 

Apple pushes back

Apple warned congressional lawmakers Tuesday that two antitrust bills that would rein in Big Tech could put Americans’ device security at risk.  

In the letter, obtained by 9to5Mac, Apple officials argued to the Senate Judiciary Committee that millions of Americans with iPhones would suffer malware attacks if the two pieces of legislation become law. 

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would limit dominant companies from choosing their own products over their rivals, and the Open App Markets Act, which is focused predominantly on app stores.  

This legislation in particular would prevent companies with widely used app stores from requiring the developer to use the store’s in-app payment system, according to the outlet. 

Read more here 

CRYPTO.COM SUSPENDS SOME ACCOUNTS

Cryptocurrency exchange app Crypto.com announced that it has suspended deposits and withdrawals due to “unauthorized activity” on some accounts.  

“Earlier today a small number of users experienced unauthorized activity in their accounts. All funds are safe,” Crypto.com wrote in a Twitter thread on Monday. “In an abundance of caution, security on all accounts is being enhanced, requiring users to: Sign back into their App & Exchange accounts, Reset their 2FA.”  

“This update will be rolled out to users progressively over the next few hours. Once complete, withdrawals will be re-enabled,” the company said in a tweet. “We understand this may be an inconvenience, but security comes first. Thank you for your support.” 

According to the Los Angeles Times, several app users have reported on social media that their currency had vanished from their Crypto.com accounts in the past few days.  

This comes shortly after Crypto.com secured naming rights to replace Staples as the title sponsor of the Los Angeles sports center last month. 

Read more here 

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Alexa is going to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission  

Lighter click: a modern masterpiece  

Notable links from around the web: 

Escape from QAnon: How Jan. 6 changed one person’s path (NBC News / Brandy Zadrozny) 

White House warns ‘small percentage’ of people can’t order its rapid COVID-19 tests (The Verge / Makena Kelly) 

One last thing: Amazon sued over collapse

The family of a delivery driver who was killed last month in a tornado has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Amazon after six people died in one of its facilities, The Associated Press reported 

In the lawsuit filed on Monday in Madison County, Ill., the family of Austin McEwen claims that the company failed to warn its employees about the incoming inclement weather and provide safe shelter for them before the storm hit on Dec. 10 

The family says Amazon “carelessly required individuals … to continue working up until the moments before the tornado struck” and improperly let McEwen, 26, and his colleagues shelter in a restroom where the company knew it wasn’t safe. 

Read more here 

 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Wednesday. 

Overnight Technology