FCC Chairman Ajit Pai moved Thursday to roll back part of a key requirement from last year that Charter Communications expand its broadband network in order to merge with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

The setup: When the FCC approved Charter's $65 billion merger with the massive Time Warner Cable network last year, it said the company needed to build out its network to two million customer locations. A million of those had to be locations where there was already a high-speed broadband provider operating to create more competition.

The details: Multiple sources familiar with the move confirmed to Axios that a draft order eliminating those so-called "overbuild provisions" — forcing Charter to build in areas where a competitor already operates — had been circulated to the commissioners' offices by agency staff in response to petitions from two trade groups. An commission official said the rationale behind the order was to encourage Charter to build in unserved areas of the country, not places where customers can already access high-speed broadband.

Worth noting: An order can sit on circulation for a long time, so this doesn't necessarily mean that a vote on the matter is imminent. Spokespeople for the FCC and Charter declined to comment on the record.

Key context: Pai has long criticized the idea of putting conditions on a merger to reach broader policy goals, like encouraging competition in the broadband market. He even voted against the Charter merger's approval just to make that point.

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Boeing and researchers at the University of Arizona say their experiment with a live virus on an unoccupied airplane proves that the cleaning methods currently used by airlines are effective in destroying the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Deep cleaning aircraft between flights is one of many tactics the airline industry is using to try to restore public confidence in flying during the pandemic. The researchers say their study proves there is virtually no risk of transmission from touching objects including armrests, tray tables, overhead bins or lavatory handles on a plane.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: Studies show drop in COVID death rate — The next wave is gaining steam — The overwhelming aftershocks of the pandemic.
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Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a vote on Republicans' $500 billion targeted COVID-19 relief bill, a far less comprehensive package than the $1.8 trillion+ deal currently being negotiated between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

Why it matters: There's little appetite in the Senate for a stimulus bill with a price tag as large as what President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been calling for. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "skinny" proposal was mostly seen as a political maneuver, as it had little chance of making it out of the Senate.

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