Nov 16, 2017

FCC to consider limits on subsidized web and phone access

Illustration: Greg Ruben / Axios

The Federal Communications Commission will decide Thursday whether to move forward with an effort to cap the amount it spends on subsides for phone and internet service for low-income people, and other changes to the "lifeline" program.Why it matters: There were more than 12 million subscribers to the service as of 2016.The details: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal includes putting a cap on the program's spending, but does not specify how high it would be. Advocates who support the way the program operates now are especially worried about another proposal from Pai, which would restrict participation in the program to "facilities-based" providers — meaning companies that own rather than rent their network infrastructure.

  • The commission argues that this will encourage the buildout of networks for low-income people and drive costs down. Advocates say it's a bridge too far. "This is heartless," said Jessica Gonzalez of the advocacy group Free Press, saying that the vast majority of people get their Lifeline service through providers who wouldn't be allowed under Pai's proposal. It's also been criticized by head of the conservative Free State Foundation.
  • While both the cap and the broad new requirements for providers are part of a proposal that will require public comment before it can be voted on again and take effect, commissioners will vote tomorrow on whether to immediately make it impossible for companies that lease their networks to get a higher subsidy offered on tribal lands.

The bigger picture: The Lifeline program is the object of political controversy, with conservatives branding it derisively as "Obamaphone" during the last administration. Pai has long argued waste and fraud is too common in the program but others say that earlier reforms have significantly addressed those issues. The chairman has also faced questions about how his efforts to limit Lifeline square with the push for expanded broadband access he has made his signature issue.

What's next? Commissioners will vote Thursday only on whether to officially consider the cap and other controversial elements of Pai's plan. The public will then have a chance to comment on the ideas. Another vote is required to make the changes.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,014,673 — Total deaths: 52,973 — Total recoveries: 210,335Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 244,678 — Total deaths: 5,911 — Total recoveries: 9,058Map.
  3. 2020 updates: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus. A federal judge declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election.
  4. Jobs latest: Coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state.
  5. Public health latest: Anthony Fauci called for all states across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders. The FDA will allow blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
  6. Business latest: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said oil companies are eligible for aid from new lending programs the Federal Reserve is setting up, but not direct loans from his department.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus.
  8. 1 future thing: In developing countries, consequences of COVID-19 could be deeper and far more difficult to recover from.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Mark Meadows considers new White House press secretary

Photos: Alyssa Farah, Defense Department; Stephanie Grisham, Alex Wong/Getty Images; Kayleigh McEnany, Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has privately discussed bringing on Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah or Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany as a new White House press secretary, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Meadows' start on Tuesday as Trump's new chief presents a chance to overhaul a press shop that's kept a low profile since President Trump ended the tradition of daily press secretary briefings.

CNN: Fauci advises all states issue stay-at-home orders

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to President Trump speak during a briefing on April 1. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci recommended on Thursday that all states across the U.S. implement stay-at-home orders, at a CNN town hall.

Why it matters: The recommendation stands in contrast to President Trump's calls for "flexibility." Nearly 4o states have issued stay-at-home orders to promote social distancing as a way to combat the novel coronavirus — but the orders vary in strictness and duration.

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