Google developing an Uber competitor - a defensive move for the future of driverless cars

Bloomberg is reporting that Google is developing a service to compete with Uber, Lyft, and others:

'Google is preparing to offer its own ride-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its long-in-development driverless car project.

Uber executives have seen screenshots of what appears to be a Google ride-sharing app that is currently being used by Google employees.'

The article is subtitled 'The two companies are going to war over self-driving taxis', which was my first thought even before I read the subtitle.

If driverless cars can be mass-produced at a reasonable cost in the future, most people in urban areas will have no need to own a vehicle. It won't make sense to own a vehicle capable of driving itself when it sits in a parking spot 20+ hours per day. It will be less expensive and more convenient to use a service like Uber.

If Uber continues to grow and dominate the taxi/ride-hailing industry, they would be a huge (if not the largest) purchaser of driverless cars. Google does not want a single customer with that much purchasing power to influence the market for driverless cars. Perhaps this move is all about influencing a more competitive market for driverless cars in the future.

I got phished

I have been spending a lot of time working with one of the accounts I use to run my websites over the past week, including several tech support calls.  Saturday afternoon I received an email from that account saying that I was over one of my limits and my account may be deactivated if I didn't take action.  This was surprising, but I figured that something just got a little messed up with all of the moving around we were doing, and needed some house cleaning.  Nope, I got phished.  Phishing is masquerading as a trusted entity to lure users into giving up sensitive information, such as financial info, logins, personal details, etc. When I get an email that requires action I try to manually navigate to the website and login, rather than just clicking on the link in the email.  However, this attempt was successful in getting me to part with my password. It was a combination of the work I had been doing on that account, and me being in a rush to get out the door on a Saturday afternoon.  I quickly realized my mistake and reset my password on the account.  It was a unique password, so I didn't need to worry about other accounts being taken over.  This highlights how careful we need to be online these days.  Enable two-step verification on accounts that support it, use complex unique passwords, and always be suspicious.

The unintended consequences of the FCC's open internet proposal: Will content companies buy up internet providers?

A lot of public debate has been going on about 'net neutrality' and the FCC recently voted on a set of proposals.  The proposal doesn't outlaw so-called internet 'fast lanes', which has many people worried.  In theory, an internet service provider could charge a Netflix or YouTube fees to access their 'fast lane' and ensure their content is delivered to customers more quickly than other internet traffic.  It doesn't have to be streaming video, fast lanes could apply to getting quicker search results or a better Instagram experience.  If this does become a legal and common practice, I think there could be a lot of unintended consequences.

Will fast lanes make internet providers acquisition targets?

Imagine if you're a huge tech company that drives a lot of traffic (Netflix, Google, Facebook, etc).  Your content is delivered to millions of people through a series of different internet service providers.  Then one day you suddenly had to cut deals and pay tolls to ensure your customers continue to get the same high quality service they've come to expect.  You might use that as a differentiator over your smaller competitors that couldn't afford to cut the same deals.  If you were especially ruthless, you might even drive up the price of those fees so that only the largest and most profitable companies could afford them.

Another strategy may be to go a step further and buy companies that provider internet service so that you'd have more control over how your content is delivered to consumers.  Google already does this in a small way with Google Fiber.  It isn't big enough to have much sway in the market, but they are able to keep competitive services 'honest' in the markets where Google Fiber is available.

Comcast already did something similar in the TV industry when they bought NBC Universal in 2009 after failing in their $41 billion takeover attempt of The Walt Disney Company.  At the time, NBC Universal was valued at $30 billion and Comcast was valued at about $50 billion.  That was a huge transaction, but how would it look today?

Currently, Comcast is worth about $137 billion.  Their biggest competitors are Verizon ($204B), AT&T ($182B),Time Warner Cable ($40B), CenturyLink ($21B), and Charter ($16B).  A big portion of Verizon's and AT&T's value comes from their mobile phone businesses, so their fixed broadband/cable/telephone businesses alone are worth much less.  These are huge companies, but there are lots of tech/media companies that are even bigger: Google ($381B), Facebook ($162B), Amazon ($149B), Walt Disney ($147), Time Warner Inc ($63B), CBS ($34B), Netflix ($26B), and on.

My point is, there are plenty of tech and media companies that are large enough to go out and buy one of the five biggest internet service providers in the US.  Some are even big enough to build their own.  If the FCC gives internet providers the ability to build toll bridges into their networks then some of these tech companies may just decide to vertically integrate in order to have more control over their own destiny and stamp out competition.  Some companies that are more mobile focused such as Google or Facebook may decide they're better off buying or building a cellular broadband network.  Is this good for American consumers, and is this really what the FCC wants?