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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will direct his agency to auction sought-after airwaves for 5G services estimated to be worth up to $60 billion.

Why it matters: The path the FCC chooses will affect how quickly 5G services can be deployed using the airwaves, which are key for both wireless capacity and coverage, as well as how much of the money raised will go to the government.

Driving the news: In letters to key lawmakers Monday, Pai said he wants FCC staff to auction 280 megahertz of C-band spectrum for 5G services.

  • Pai said his decision is in line with his priorities of speed, generating revenue for the government, making a significant amount of spectrum available for 5G, and ensuring that current users are protected.
  • "With a quarter century track record of transparent and successful auctions, I am confident that [the commission] will conduct a public auction that will afford all parties a fair opportunity to compete for this 5G spectrum," Pai wrote.

Details: A group of satellite operators that currently hold the licenses formed the C-Band Alliance and pitched a plan to privately sell the airwaves for 5G services.

  • Some wireless companies, including Verizon, support a private sale as the fastest way to bring the airwaves to market. However, AT&T warned in a recent filing with the FCC that a private auction could become "mired in legal challenges, or to fail altogether."
  • Lawmakers — including Republican Sen. John Kennedy and House Energy and Commerce communications subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle — have called for the FCC to hold the auction, with proceeds going to the U.S. Treasury.
  • Kennedy has been particularly vociferous on the topic, holding a hearing with Pai to press him on the issue as well as giving two speeches on the Senate floor about his concerns with a private sale.

What's next: The FCC will have to vote on Pai's plan, the details of which have not yet been made public.

Go deeper

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.