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AI startups raised $18.5 billion in 2019, setting new funding record



While overall U.S. venture capital funding dipped in 2019, the artificial intelligence sector bucked this trend by reaching a new annual high for money raised by startups.

According to 2019 data from the National Venture Capital Association, 1,356 AI-related companies in the U.S. raised $18.457 billion. That topped the 1,281 companies that raised $16.8 billion in 2018, according to the Q4 2019 PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor.

NVCA had projected that AI startups were on pace to set a new record after Q3 funding surged. They managed to set the new high after $4.0 billion was raised by 267 AI-related startups during the last three months of 2019. That was a slight dip from the $4.4 billion raised in Q3 2019.

The most recent AI fundraising deals in Q4 2019 included $15 millon raised by Evisort to automate contract management, $18 million raised by Huckleberry which uses AI to match small businesses with insurance, and $20.6 million raised by Anyscale to simplify writing AI and machine learning applications.

As these and other companies continue to expand their impact, AI investing outperformed the overall VC market.

NVCA reported that $136.5 billion was raised across 10,777 deals in 2019. In 2018, according to NVCA’s revised figures, $140.2 billion was raised across 10,542 deals.


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First phase of Huawei CFO Meng’s U.S. extradition hearing set to wrap up in Canada




VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou arrived in a Vancouver courtroom on Thursday to wrap up the first phase of a U.S. extradition hearing where her lawyers will respond to the Canadian prosecutor’s arguments calling for Meng to be extradited to the United States on bank fraud charges.

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend her extradition hearing at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

Legal experts have said it could be years before a final decision is reached in the case, since Canada’s justice system allows many decisions to be appealed.

On Wednesday, prosecutors argued that Meng should be extradited on fraud charges, and that contrary to her defense argument, the case is not solely about violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“Fraud, not sanctions violations is at the heart of this case,” prosecutor Robert Frater told the judge on Wednesday.

Meng, 47, has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition. She entered court wearing a white polka dot dress with a long-sleeved black top and stiletto heels that she has often favored during the trial.

Although the courts had set aside two full days for the prosecution to present its case, the prosecution took only half of a day, and closed its arguments before lunch on Wednesday.

The United States has charged Meng with bank fraud, and accused her of misleading HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business in Iran.

But Meng’s legal team argued that “double criminality,” is the central issue in this case. Under Canadian extradition laws, a person can only be extradited if the offence they are alleged to have committed in another country is also considered illegal in Canada. This is commonly called “double criminality.”

Unlike the United States, Canada did not have sanctions against Iran at the time Canadian officials authorized the start of the extradition process, her lawyers have said.

“In reality, sanctions violation is the essence of the alleged misconduct … the United States has a global interest in enforcing its Iran sanctions. Sanctions drive this case,” Richard Peck, one of Meng’s lawyers added.

Frater argued Wednesday that the judge’s job was to “ensure that Canada doesn’t become a safe haven for fraudsters.”

He also said it is not the judge’s role to determine whether Meng is guilty of fraud, but whether the alleged behavior could also be prosecuted as fraud in Canada.

Court proceedings show the United States issued the arrest warrant, which Canada acted on in December 2018, because it believes Meng covered up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran, breaking U.S. sanctions against the country.

Meng’s court proceedings have attracted global media interest and the case has strained relationship between China and Canada.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, remains free on bail in Canada, and has been living in a mansion in Vancouver’s exclusive Shaughnessy neighborhood.

Meng’s legal team is currently only scheduled to call evidence in the last week of April, and a second phase of the trial, focusing on abuse of process and whether Canadian officials followed the law while arresting Meng, is set to begin in June. Closing arguments are expected in the last week of September and first week of October.

Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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Here’s how to set up your Amazon Echo Dot 3




Controlling your smart home is easy to do with the best Echo speaker, since Amazon’s Alexa works with so many different smart home gadgets.

If you’ve recently acquired an Echo Dot (third-generation) and aren’t sure how to set it up, you’ve come to the right place. Setting up your new Echo Dot (third-generation) speaker doesn’t take long at all, but there are a few steps you need to follow. Here’s how to set up your Echo Dot 3.

How to set up your Echo Dot (third-generation)

Amazon Alexa app

Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Amazon Alexa app is available for download on iOS and Android devices.

1. Download the app

Install the Amazon Alexa app to your iOS or Android device. If you already have the app installed, check to make sure you’re running the latest version of it.

2. Plug it in

Place the Echo Dot 3 in an area of your home where it will get the most use. Amazon recommends placing the smart speaker at least 8 inches away from any walls, like on your kitchen counter or living room end table. Plug the power adapter (included with your purchase) into the backside of the Echo Dot and then plug the speaker into a nearby electrical outlet. The ring surrounding the top of the Echo Dot will begin flashing blue for about 60 seconds.

3. Add your Echo to the app

Then, open the Amazon Alexa app. Navigate to the Settings Menu in the upper left-hand corner of the app and select Add Device. Under All Devices, click on Amazon Echo > Echo Dot. Then, click the option to set up the third-generation Echo.

By now, the spinning light should have changed from blue to orange, indicating that the Echo Dot is in setup mode. The Amazon Alexa app will scan for the Echo Dot speaker. Once it appears, click on the device name within the app to finish the setup process.

4. Connect the Echo to WiFi

Before you start asking your newest Alexa-enabled device questions, you need to connect it to your home’s WiFi. This can be done by following the on-screen instructions in the Amazon Alexa app that appear during setup. (You can update the WiFi settings in the Amazon Alexa app by navigating to Settings > Device Settings and choosing the device you’d like to update.)

Once you’ve successfully connected your Echo speaker to the internet, we recommend performing a quick test to make sure your Echo speaker is working as it should. You can say something as simple as “Alexa, hello,” and she will respond back with a greeting.

5. Getting to know your Echo Dot (third-generation)

There are more than 100,000 Alexa skills that can help you control your smart home. But, you can also have fun with Alexa using the Echo Dot 3 to create a playlist and listen to music, entertain your kids, and even help you celebrate holidays like Halloween and track Santa on Christmas Eve. She can also help make your life easier by ordering you an Uber, finding your phone, and more.

However, before you can begin using any of these skills, you will need to enable them using the Amazon Alexa app or Amazon Alexa Skills website in order to take advantage of all of the awesome things Alexa can do for you.


Echo Dot 3

Credit: Amazon

Amazon customer support should be able to assist if you encounter any problems while setting up the Echo Dot (third-generation).

Having trouble setting up the Echo Dot? First, make sure that the speaker is plugged into the wall. Second, check your WiFi connection to make sure it’s operating as normal. You may need to unplug your router for 30 seconds and then plug it back in.

Thirdly, if your Dot is still not working, you may try restoring the device to its factory settings and repeating the setup process. To do so, press and hold the Action button (the one with a white dot) on the top of the Echo Dot for about 25 seconds or until the light ring turns orange. From here, you can restart the setup process.

Still no dice? Reach out to Amazon’s customer service department to further troubleshoot the issue.

The Echo Dot (third-generation) and privacy

Amazon Echo Dot (third generation)

Credit: Amazon

An Amazon account is required to set up your Echo Dot (third-generation) speaker.

Privacy might seem like a thing of the past, as everywhere you go, there’s some computer watching or listening. But in your own home, you can do a few things to protect yourself, even from naturally invasive smart home devices.

You can stop your Dot from listening for (and possibly mishearing) your wake word by turning off your mic via the mute button on the top of the device. Or, turn on audible alerts within Settings in the Alexa app to know when your Echo is listening beyond just the indicator light.

Bloomberg recently reported that Amazon employs workers to manually review voice recordings. You can opt-out of having your voice recordings included in the review process by going to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data, then toggling off the setting that says Use Voice Recordings to Improve Amazon Services. In these privacy settings, you can also delete voice recordings, which are accessible to anyone you share the app with. You can even set up auto-deletion every three or 18 months.

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FCC shuts New York out of $20B broadband fund, and senators are angry




Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at a podium during a news conference while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer looks on.
Enlarge / Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrats from New York, during a news conference on the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in Washington, DC, on Thursday, July 18, 2019.

The Federal Communications Commission has unfairly shut New York state out of a planned $20.4 billion broadband-funding program, US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week.

ISPs in 48 states are eligible for funding in the FCC rural-broadband program, which will distribute the money over 10 years to providers that expand their networks to new homes and businesses. The FCC said it blocked New York and Alaska from Phase I of the program “because of previously established programs to fund rural broadband in these states.” (Phase I will distribute $16 billion of the $20.4 billion.)

The FCC previously established a separate funding program for Alaska with $1.5 billion over 10 years. But Schumer and Gillibrand say New York has only gotten its fair share of nationwide FCC programs, rather than something extra.

“I am disappointed that the FCC chose to exclude millions of New Yorkers from potentially accessing vital broadband Internet services,” Gillibrand said in an announcement Friday. “The FCC’s justification for this is unacceptable. New York shouldn’t be penalized for helping its rural communities get online, and this proposal will only make it harder for rural residents to do just that.”

Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter urged Pai to reverse the decision and let New York-based ISPs participate in the fund, which is supposed to provide broadband access to up to 4 million rural homes and businesses nationwide. “The FCC is undermining New York State’s due process and penalizing New York for proactively creating a program to address unserved communities across the state,” their announcement said.

We contacted Pai’s office Wednesday morning about the Schumer/Gillibrand letter and will update this story if we get a response.

NY previously got $170 million

The FCC previously said it left New York out of the fund because of the existing New York Broadband Program. But that program is funded primarily by state grants, with the FCC committing $170 million over 10 years. New York committed $500 million to the fund.

Even that $170 million wasn’t anything more than what New York was eligible for through standard FCC programs. The money became available because Verizon in 2015 turned down $170 million for New York expansions in the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF), which pays for rural-broadband expansion throughout the United States. State officials convinced the FCC to redirect that funding to New York’s state government.

“From the very beginning, I was very clear with the FCC that this $170 million belongs strictly to New York and should be kept here,” Schumer said in a January 2017 announcement.

The new $20.4 billion program, called the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), will replace the CAF. The RDOF and CAF are similar in that both pay ISPs to expand their broadband networks, awarding the money via reverse auctions, and both funds are paid for by Americans through fees imposed on phone bills.

In the same year that Verizon declined funding, the FCC awarded $9 billion over six years to ISPs in 46 states, including other ISPs in New York.

In another auction in 2018, 45 states got funding that totaled $1.49 billion over 10 years. New York and Alaska were excluded from that auction.

“The federal government should be investing—not divesting—in Upstate New York rural Internet access,” Schumer said. “Just because New York participates in certain federal rural broadband expansion programs certainly doesn’t mean it should lose access to others. It makes absolutely no sense to punish New York for taking positive steps to address broadband access.”

Broadband gap in rural New York

About 98.4 percent of New York state’s 19.8 million residents live in areas with access to home broadband with 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps upload speeds, according to an FCC broadband deployment report. The numbers are 99.9 percent in urban New York and 87.1 percent in rural New York.

About 80.5 percent of Alaska’s 740,000 residents live in areas with access at that speed, the report said. The numbers are 96.4 percent in urban Alaska and 51.6 percent in rural Alaska.

Those percentages may be misleading, as FCC broadband-access data is widely known to be inaccurate, and the commission has pledged to collect more accurate data from ISPs in the future.

The first RDOF reverse auction, for $16 billion over 10 years, is slated to begin later this year with the FCC saying it plans to “target those areas that current data confirm are wholly unserved.” A second auction would be held in the future to distribute the rest of the money, presumably after the FCC has more accurate data on which parts of the US lack broadband access.

ISPs in each eligible state can apply for funding to support broadband networks offering at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds, or for higher tiers including 50Mbps/5Mbps, 100Mbps/20Mbps, and 1Gbps/500Mbps. As we previously wrote, the FCC plan disappointingly allows ISPs to impose data caps of 250GB per month on the 25Mbps/3Mbps and 50Mbps/5Mbps tiers. ISPs that pledge to offer service at the higher levels of 100Mbps/20Mbps and 1Gbps/500Mbps will get more funding and be required to allow at least 2TB of data usage each month.


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