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Robin Groulx / Axios

The FCC is moving to pull back one aspect of an Obama-era effort to reform to a program that subsidizes internet and phone service for low-income people, possibly presaging a larger effort to change the program.

The details:

  • Under Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC expanded the Lifeline program to cover broadband and said that the companies that provide that service could be approved by the federal government, rather than on a state-by-state basis. Some states sued over that change.
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Wednesday that while he supports including broadband in the program, "the FCC will soon begin a proceeding to eliminate the new federal designation process." It will also stop defending the process in court, and Pai said the agency should reject the applications submitted through the process.

Why it matters: This is just the beginning of a battle over the future of Lifeline. Pai drew headlines earlier this year when he moved to rescind the certification of several Lifeline providers approved under Wheeler — including among the applications he thinks should be rejected — and wants major changes to the program. Mignon Clyburn, currently the commission's only Democrat, said in a statement that Pai's "statement confirms that under this Administration low-income Americans will have less choice for Lifeline broadband, and potential providers who want to serve low-income Americans will face greater barriers to entry and regulatory uncertainty."

What we're watching: Whether this changes which companies — or how many — come to the table to provide broadband service through the program, since they will no longer be able to get certified through a centralized federal process.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

North Korea claims latest missile test new weapon launched from submarine

North Korean state media claims the country's military fired this missile on Tuesday. Photo: Korean Central News Agency

North Korean state media announced that a detected ballistic missile launch off its east coast on Tuesday was a newly developed weapon test-fired from a submarine.

Why it matters: Pyongyang's latest in a series of recent missile launches into the sea happened hours after U.S. officials emphasized their commitment to restart negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since talks broke down during the Trump administration, AP notes.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's massive means test

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is offering progressives a trade: He'll vote for their cherished social programs if they accept strict income caps for the recipients, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s plan to use so-called means-testing for everything from paid family medical leave to elder and disabled care would drastically shrink the size and scope of the programs. It also would bring a key moderate vote to the progressive cause.

The China whisperer

Nick Burns. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee for ambassador to China will face aggressive questioning Wednesday about the most important, and potentially perilous, bilateral relationship in the world.

Why it matters: While Nick Burns is an experienced diplomat with support on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers want to use his confirmation hearing to force the administration into some tough positions on China.