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Most cellphones sold in the U.S. have FM chips hidden inside, but nearly half of them aren't activated. FCC Chairman Pai would like to see that number increase.

It seems odd that every day we hear about a new smartphone app that lets you do something innovative, yet these modern-day mobile miracles don't enable a key function offered by a 1982 Sony Walkman.

Why he cares: Chairman Pai laid out the benefits in a speech to broadcasters today:

  • For broadcasters, radio chips will let FM stations reach more listeners who are constantly consuming media on their cellphones.
  • For consumers, listening to over-the-air content via a chip will use "one-sixth of the battery life and less data" compared to streaming radio content.
  • During emergencies, cellphones would be able to receive broadcast emergency alerts, especially when the wireless network is down or overloaded.

What's in it for cellphone makers? Not much — and that's the problem. If consumers are listening to over-the-air radio stations, they're not streaming music on carriers' networks. But as more carriers embrace unlimited data plans (Verizon announced its own plan this week), they might be warming up to the FM chips. Still, it's a matter of consumer demand—and most consumers aren't hinging their smartphone purchase on radio capabilities.

What's next: Don't expect the FCC to force cellphone makers to turn on the chips. Pai said, "as a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips….it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace."

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Updated 13 mins ago - Sports

Tiger Woods crash: What we know

Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Tiger Woods underwent emergency surgery to repair damage to his right leg and ankle, after he was involved in a single-vehicle accident on Tuesday in which his SUV ran off the road.

What we know: The golf star "is currently awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room" at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, according to a late-night statement from his team.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
14 mins ago - Podcasts

Corporate America pressures Congress to act on stimulus

Big corporations and top CEOs are putting pressure on Congress and the White House to pass economic stimulus measures, as the political debate drags on.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with Heather Higginbottom, a former Obama administration official and president of the JPMorgan Chase Policy Center, about why her organization just published its first-ever set of policy recommendations.

Capitol repairs, security top $30M since Jan. 6 attacks

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton on Wednesday said that repairs and security expenses related to the Jan. 6 insurrection have already cost more than $30 million.

The state of play: Congressional appropriations committees have allocated the $30 million for repairs and perimeter fencing around the Capitol building through March 31, per NPR.

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