Verizon Near Deal to Sell Yahoo and AOL

The private equity firm has been on a buying spree in the past few months, announcing deals to acquire the crafts retailer Michaels and the Venetian resort in Las Vegas. It has also had a shake-up in its senior ranks, with its co-founder, Leon Black, announcing in late March that he was stepping down as chairman after the revelation he had paid more than $150 million to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Apollo declined to comment. Verizon didn’t respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg, which first reported the expected deal, said Verizon would maintain a stake in the media arm.

The deal would signal the unraveling of a strategy Verizon heralded in 2015 when it acquired the faded internet giant AOL for $4.4 billion. The purchase was meant to give Verizon a pathway into mobile, with the goal of using AOL’s advertising technology to sell ads against digital content. Verizon doubled down on that strategy in 2017 with its $4.48 billion acquisition of Yahoo, which it combined with AOL under the umbrella Oath.

But Google and Facebook have proved to be formidable competitors in the digital advertising market. Verizon acknowledged their might in 2018 when it wrote down the value of Oath by $4.6 billion, attributing the move in part to “increased competitive and market pressures” that had resulted in “lower-than-expected revenues and earnings.”

Under its chief executive, Hans Vestberg, the company has instead emphasized improving the technology around its mobile business. In March, it agreed to pay nearly $53 billion to license wireless airwaves that will help the company expand its next-generation 5G infrastructure. It also plans to spend $10 billion over the next few years to wire more cell towers and upgrade its systems. The company’s total debt now exceeds $180 billion.

The media business was originally meant to differentiate Verizon from its rivals by giving it unique content offerings, but it didn’t work out that way. The phone carrier instead reached an agreement in 2019 with Disney to offer its new streaming service Disney+ free to its customers. (AT&T, by contrast, spent $85 billion to buy Time Warner in 2018 to create its own streaming platform, HBO Max.)

In 2018, Verizon announced the departure of Mr. Armstrong. The group was restructured and in January 2019, it laid off about 800 workers, or about 7 percent of the staff.

Last year, Verizon began to dismantle the media group with the sale of HuffPost to BuzzFeed.

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Apple AirTag Review: A Humble Tracker With Next-Generation Tech

On the outside, Apple’s new AirTag looks like a ho-hum product that we have all seen before. It’s a disc-shaped tracking gadget that can be attached to items like house keys to help you find them.

But inside, the story gets far more interesting.

The AirTag, which Apple introduced last week, is one of the first consumer electronics to support a new wireless technology, ultrawideband, which lets you detect precise proximity between objects. Using ultrawideband, your iPhone can sense whether an AirTag is an inch or dozens of feet away from it. It’s so accurate that its app will even show an arrow pointing you in the direction of the AirTag.

That’s far better than other trackers that rely on Bluetooth, an older wireless technology that can only roughly guess an item’s proximity. (More on how this all works later.)

Using ultrawideband to find lost items is just one early example of what the technology can do. Because of its pinpoint-precise ability to transfer data quickly between devices, ultrawideband could become the next wireless standard that succeeds Bluetooth. It could lead to better wireless earphones, keyboards, video game controllers — you name it.

Spark Microsystems, a Montreal firm that is developing ultrawideband technology, said of trackers like the AirTag. “It sends its data really, really fast.”

I tested Apple’s $29 AirTag, which will be released on Friday, for about a week. I used the tracker to find house keys, locate my dogs and track a backpack. I also ran similar tests with Tile, a $25 tracker that relies on Bluetooth and that has been around for about eight years.

Last week, Tile complained in an antitrust hearing that Apple had copied its product while putting smaller companies at a disadvantage. From my tests comparing AirTag and Tile, I found that ultrawideband was far superior to Bluetooth for finding items. What’s more, the AirTag demonstrated that ultrawideband is next-generation tech that is worth getting excited about.

Here’s what you need to know.

Ultrawideband has been in development for more than 15 years, but it was built into chips for iPhones and other smartphones only in the last two years.

When you use ultrawideband to find a tracker, it works similarly to sonar, which detects objects underwater. You send a ping to the tag, and the tag bounces a ping back to your phone. The amount of time it takes for the ping to come back is used to calculate the distance between the two objects.

announced that it would soon release a plan for other companies to take advantage of the ultrawideband technology inside Apple devices.

I’m happy to wait for those products using this neat wireless technology.

Because of its greater efficiency at transmitting data, ultrawideband could make future wireless devices immensely better, Mr. Nabki said. As an example, he cited cord-free earphones that connect instantly, use very little battery and sound as good as wired ones.

That sounds much cooler than finding house keys.

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That Spotty Wi-Fi? There’s $100 Billion to Fix It.

WASHINGTON — Kimberly Vasquez, a high school senior in Baltimore, faced a tough problem when the pandemic began. She had no fast internet service in her home, but all her classes were online.

Marigold Lewi, a sophomore at the same school, was regularly booted off Zoom classes because of her slow home connection.

Ms. Lewi spent a lot of time explaining Zoom absences to teachers. Ms. Vasquez sat outside local libraries to use their internet access and at times used her phone. The two of them helped push a successful public campaign for better and free service to low-income families in the city.

His $2 trillion infrastructure plan, announced on Wednesday, includes $100 billion to extend fast internet access to every home.

The money is meant to improve the economy by enabling all Americans to work, get medical care and take classes from wherever they live. Although the government has spent billions on the digital divide in the past, the efforts have failed to close it partly because people in different areas have different problems. Affordability is the main culprit in urban and suburban areas. In many rural areas, internet service isn’t available at all because of the high costs of installation.

“We’ll make sure every single American has access to high-quality, affordable, high speed internet,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Wednesday. “And when I say affordable, I mean it. Americans pay too much for internet. We will drive down the price for families who have service now. We will make it easier for families who don’t have affordable service to be able to get it now.”

Longtime advocates of universal broadband say the plan, which requires congressional approval, may finally come close to fixing the digital divide, a stubborn problem first identified and named by regulators during the Clinton administration. The plight of unconnected students during the pandemic added urgency.

F.C.C. announced $50 to $75 broadband subsidies for low-income families from $3.2 billion granted by Congress in December for emergency digital divide funding. Both programs involve one-time emergency funding to address broadband access problems exacerbated by the pandemic.

The administration’s $100 billion plan aims to connect even the most isolated residents: the 35 percent of rural homes without access. In those areas, the White House said, it would focus on “future-proof” technology, which analysts take to mean fiber and other high-bandwidth technology. The administration highlighted its support for networks run and owned by municipalities, nonprofits and rural electrical cooperatives. Several states have banned municipal broadband networks, and the F.C.C. failed in its attempts to overturn those bans in court during the Obama administration.

The Biden infrastructure plan faces a tough path in Congress. Republicans have pushed back on the cost. They even argue about definitions of broadband. Republicans balk at some proposals to require faster broadband standards — such as 25 megabits for downloads and as much as 25 megabits for uploads, which they say is a bar too high for providers in rural areas. Those speeds would allow multiple family members to be on videoconferencing, for example.

“I believe that this would make it harder to serve those communities that don’t have broadband today,” Michael O’Rielly, a former F.C.C. commissioner, told the House commerce committee last month.

Educators lobbied Congress throughout the pandemic to extend broadband in the country. When little relief was in sight, some took matters into their own hands.

Last April and through the summer, administrators at the Brockton School District in Massachusetts bought more than 4,000 hot spots with their own funding and a federal loan. They were able to reduce the percentage of students without high-speed internet or a device to about 5 to 10 percent, from about 30 percent.

Superintendent Mike Thomas said the district was starting to go back to classrooms and would most likely be fully in person by the fall. But he plans to retain many aspects of distance learning, he said, particularly after-school tutoring.

In Baltimore, where an estimated 40 percent of households lack high-speed internet, students and community activists fought to raise awareness of their circumstances. Ms. Vasquez and Ms. Lewi held protests against Comcast, the dominant provider, for better speeds and lower costs for its much-publicized low-income program. Their group, Students Organizing a Multicultural and Open Society, also lobbied the Maryland legislature and the city to put a priority on affordable broadband for low-income households.

“We didn’t have options, and we deserved better,” Ms. Vasquez said.

Adam Bouhmad and some community activists began to install antenna “mesh” networks tapping into the hot spots of closed Baltimore schools to connect surrounding homes. Through a jury-rigged system of antennas and routers, Mr. Bouhmad’s group, Waves, got cheap or free internet service to 120 low-income families.

Mr. Biden’s promise to support alternative broadband providers could include projects like the one led by Mr. Bouhmad, who said the past year had shown how scant broadband options had left residents in Baltimore in the lurch.

“Investment upfront to build out infrastructure and support internet providers is fantastic,” Mr. Bouhmad said. He added that residents in places like Baltimore would continue to need federal subsidies and that the administration should focus on the costs of broadband as a major hurdle.

“Availability doesn’t equal accessibility in terms of price and user experience,” he said.

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