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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is just weeks into the job, and has declined to comment so far on the future of former Chairman Tom Wheeler's controversial net neutrality rules.

Friday, though, the agency pulled back on a probe into free data programs from internet providers directly tied to the rules.

The details:

  • The commission dropped its probe into the offers from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile that gave customers free data for viewing certain content.
  • They rescinded a report finding that some of those programs "may harm consumers and competition." The key sentence in the order the FCC released on Friday: "The Policy Review Report will have no legal or other effect or meaning going forward."

The bigger picture: Pai is rolling back a slate of Wheeler-era actions that, in a statement, he characterized as "last-minute" and not supported by the majority of commissioners at the time.

Counterpoint: Democrats are not happy about Pai's actions. "It is clear that net neutrality is public enemy number one for Chairman Pai, and he is starting his campaign by protecting harmful zero-rating plans," said Sen. Ed Markey, a key ally in Congress for consumer interest groups. Mignon Clyburn, the FCC's lone Democrat, said it was "disappointing to see this Chairman engage in the same actions for which he criticized the prior Chairman."

The bottom line: Internet providers can move forward with their free data offerings with fewer concerns about FCC intervention.

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President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.

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CES was largely irrelevant this year

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Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

The FBI is tracing a digital trail to Capitol rioters

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Capitol rioters, eager to share proof of their efforts with other extremists online, have so far left a digital footprint of at least 140,000 images that is making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to capture and arrest them.

The big picture: Law enforcement's use of digital tracing isn't new, and has long been at the center of fierce battles over privacy and civil liberties. The Capitol siege is opening a fresh front in that debate.