Updated Feb. 28, 2017 at 6:56 a.m.

Tech wrap: AT&T-Time Warner deal moving; Uber exec out; Buffett's big Apple bite (+ video); court mulls sex offender ban

Published: 2017-02-28 06:53:00
Updated: 2017-02-28 06:56:48


In today's Bulldog tech wrapup:

The details:

  • AT&T-Time Warner deal may have easier path to approval

AT&T's $85 billion purchase of Time Warner may be getting an easier path to approval after the chief telecommunications regulator says it isn't likely to review the deal.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai told The Wall Street Journal that the agency likely won't be involved because of changes in the deal's structure.

Last week, magazine publisher and TV station owner Meredith announced plans buy Time Warner's lone TV station for $70 million. AT&T's takeover of that station would have meant an FCC review.

FCC spokesman Neil Grace confirmed Pai's comments to The Associated Press.

The Justice Department still needs to approve the merger. But the FCC was considered the tougher cop. It must determine a deal is in the public interest, a broader criteria than antitrust.

Pai has been taking more industry-friendly stances on many issues since President Donald Trump appointed him FCC chairman.

  • Report: Uber exec out after failing to disclose allegation

A top engineering executive at Uber, Amit Singhal, is out five weeks after his hire was announced. According to a report in the tech blog Recode, Singhal failed to disclose that he'd left his previous job at Google because of a sexual harassment allegation.

Singhal denied the allegation and said he left Google a year ago for his own reasons.

The dustup is just the latest sign of turmoil at Uber, which last week found itself in an unrelated sexual harassment firestorm . That stemmed from a detailed essay published by a former female Uber engineer, who charged that her prospects at the company evaporated after she complained about sexual advances from her boss. In the post about her year at Uber , Susan Fowler said the company's human resources department ignored her complaints because her boss was a high performer.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has called for an independent investigation of those issues, and the company has hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to help.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, Singhal said: "Harassment is unacceptable in any setting. I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior. In my 20-year career, I've never been accused of anything like this before and the decision to leave Google was my own."

According to Recode, Singhal left Google after executives there informed him of a harassment allegation lodged by an employee, one an internal investigation had found "credible." Citing unnamed sources at Uber, Recode said the company did "extensive background checks of Singhal" but did not uncover "any hint of the circumstances of his departure from Google."

  • Buffett's bite of Apple even bigger than thought

Billionaire Warren Buffett, famously leery of technology companies, has loaded up on Apple shares after noticing how inseparable iPhone users are from the gadget once they get one in their pocket.

Buffett said on CNBC Monday that Berkshire Hathaway now holds about 133 million shares of Apple after buying yet more of the company's stock this year. That's more than double stake that Berkshire revealed earlier this month.

Buffett spoke to CNBC at length after releasing his annual letter to shareholders over the weekend.

Buffett's aggressive buying spree caught many off guard because he has long said it's too difficult to predict which tech companies will prevail.

In this case, perceptions matter. Buffett sees Apple as more of a consumer products maker than a tech company, which brought the iPhone maker right into his comfort zone.

"Apple strikes me as having quite a sticky product and an enormously useful product to people who use it, not that I do," said Buffett, who produced the basic flip phone that he relies on.

  • Supreme Court skeptical of sex offender social media ban

With a nod to the importance of social media in American life, the Supreme Court signaled Monday it could strike down a North Carolina law that bars convicted sex offenders from Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites.

At least five justices, a majority of the court, suggested during argument that they would rule for North Carolina resident Lester Packingham Jr. His Facebook boast about beating a traffic ticket led to his conviction for violating a 2008 law aimed at keeping sex offenders off internet sites children might use.

The state's lawyer said the law deals with the virtual world in the same way that states keep sex offenders out of playgrounds and other places children visit. More than 1,000 people have been prosecuted under the law, Packingham said in his court filing.

Justice Samuel Alito, who has backed restrictions on speech more often than his colleagues, appeared to be more open to North Carolina's argument.

But several justices said the law was so broad that it could violate free-speech rights, even of people convicted of sex crimes.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are so popular that they "have become embedded in our culture," Justice Elena Kagan said.

The 56-year-old Kagan, the youngest justice and seemingly most conversant on the subject, said the law could prevent people from looking at the Twitter feeds of President Donald Trump and other elected officials.

WRAL TechWire any time: Twitter, Facebook

Copyright 2017 WRAL TechWire. All rights reserved.
Editor's Blog

Editor's Blog

The latest blog posts from our WRAL TechWire and WRAL editors. Read more articles…

Please Log In to add a comment.

Latest for Insiders