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Microsoft Attorney: Jerry Yang Said Google-Yahoo Merger Would Kill Competition

WASHINGTON, July 15 – Yahoo founder Jerry Yang said that if Yahoo and Google agreed to merge, competition in the search engine industry would cease, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday.

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By William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 15 – Yahoo founder Jerry Yang said that if Yahoo and Google agreed to merge, competition in the search engine industry would cease, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday.

Yang made the comments in a meeting with Microsoft executives on June 8, according to Smith, who attending the meeting.

Yang’s view was that if Google remained on one pole, and Yahoo and Microsoft were on another, competition in the industry would continue, according to Smith. But With Yahoo and Google aligned in a close business relationship, Smith said, the viability of Microsoft would diminish.

The result would be a “monopole,” said Smith.

Smith recounted the meeting to a rapt audience as one of the witnesses for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights hearing on “The Google Yahoo Agreement and the Future of Internet Advertising.”

After being reminded that he was under oath, Smith, also a senior vice president at the Redmond, Wash., based software giant, adamantly reaffirmed his statement. He said that no single company should control 90 percent of a market owing to an agreement with its largest competitor.

Smith said that the government should block a June 12 agreement, between Google and Yahoo, in which Google and Yahoo announced a collaboration on a range of search technologies.

At first, Michael Callahan, general counsel of Yahoo, disagreed with Smith’s “characterizations” of Yang’s views. When pressed by senators on exactly what Yang said, Callahan said he could not recall what Yang said during the “long meeting.” Callahan was also present at the meeting with Yang and Smith.

Callahan did reiterate Yahoo’s commitment to remaining in the search market and remaining a Google rival.

Callahan said the advertising agreement did not force Yahoo to provide a certain number of Google ads on their web site and does not bar Yahoo from entering into deals with other companies.

Furthermore, Yahoo’s agreement with Google should be beneficial to publishers, consumers, and advertisers, as well as to both of the companies, Callahan said, since relevant content, audience size, and number of ads will increase as a result of the agreement.

Callahan’s view was supported by Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond and Tim Carter, the CEO of web site Askthebuilder.com.

Drummond said that notwithstanding Google’s agreement with Yahoo, Yahoo remains independent.

Privacy advocates and others concerned about the lack of online competition have grown anxious over the prospect of 90 percent of online searches being in the hands of one company. The more data that is available to an individual search engine, the easier it would be to construct facts about a web searcher’s identity, these critics say.

Google now accounts for about 70 percent of searches; Yahoo accounts for 20 percent; with Microsoft at 10 percent, according to witnesses at the hearing.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he was wary about the possibility of vast amounts of personal data being in the possession of one company. Furthermore, the prospect of increased advertising prices, decreased competition, and loss of jobs also must be taken into account under the Google-Yahoo agreement, Leahy said.

Matthew Crowley of Yellowpages.com also criticized the agreement, saying that it would increase advertising prices, decrease customer choice and discourage competition and innovation.

Pressed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on whether the deal would give individuals incentive to bypass Yahoo and buy advertising directly from Google, Callahan said that companies should be aware that there is “no guarantee” that their ads will be on Yahoo as well as Google.

Smith also said that Microsoft’s failed attempts to purchase Yahoo would only put the combination at about 30 percent of all searches, or about three times smaller than the combined size (90 percent of the market) of a Google-Yahoo combination.

Drummond responded by declaring that Yahoo could proceed on one of two paths. On one path, Yahoo remains a player in the search engine market and generates more revenue as a result of its deal with Google. On the other path, Yahoo ends being “gobbled up by Microsoft.”

When asked whether Google would consider changing the language of their agreement if asked to do so, Drummond said yes. Callahan, of Yahoo, “echo[ed]” Drummond’s comments.

Articles and Agreement Referenced in this Article:

Public Safety

Lack of People Opting Into Emergency Alerts Poses Problems for Natural Disaster Scenarios

Disaster protocol experts remarked on lessons learned from fire outbreaks in Boulder County, Colorado.

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Photo of Lori Adams of Nokia discussing emergency communications response to Colorado wildfires at Mountain Connect by Drew Clark

KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 26, 2022 – A lack of people opting into local emergency alerts poses a severe challenge for public officials during natural disasters, a panel of experts said Tuesday.

The panel remarked on just how significant the number of people not subscribed to emergency alerts is during a panel on disaster preparedness at the annual Mountain Connect conference.

In Boulder, getting emergency alerts is on an opt-in basis, whereas in other areas, it is opt-in by default.

The specific focus of the panel was on lessons learned from the outbreak of fires in Boulder County, Colorado this past December.

Fires presented challenges for providers

Several challenges of managing a response to the fires were recounted.

Blake Nelson, Comcast’s senior director of construction, stated that some of his company’s underground broadband infrastructure buried at a considerable depth was still melted from the heat of the fires to cause service outages for customers. Thomas Tyler, no stranger to disaster response as Louisiana’s deputy director for broadband and connectivity through several hurricane responses, pointed out that it is quite possible local officials may be skilled in responding to one type of disaster such as a hurricane but not another like a tornado.

Screenshot of Blake Nelson, Jon Saunders, Wesley Wright and Thomas Tyler (left to right)

The panel also spoke to the challenges of coordination between essential companies and agencies if people do not have personal relationships with those who work at such entities other than their own.

Successful emergency responses to service outages during disaster serve as models for the future, with Nelson stating the internet provider opened up its wireless hotspots to temporarily increase service access and Tyler saying that standing up Starlink satellite internet access helped bring broadband to Louisiana communities only accessible by bridge or boat during their periods of disaster.

Conversation moderator Lori Adams, senior director of broadband policy and funding strategy at Nokia, suggested keeping town servers not in municipal buildings but rather off site and Wesley Wright, partner at law firm Keller and Heckman, recommended the Federal Communications Commission’s practice of developing strong backup options for monitoring service outages.

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Education

Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning

Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.

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Screenshot of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.

As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.

Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.

When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.

Privacy and security concerns

Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.

Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.

To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.

There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.

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Education

Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears

Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.

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Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.

“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group SIIA, formerly known as the Software and Information Industry Association. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”

Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.

Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”

Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help

Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.

But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.

This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.

Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.

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