A handful of House Democrats are criticizing the new FCC Chairman's decision not to defend rate caps for phone calls placed within prison walls. Under the Obama administration, the FCC placed a rate cap on what phone companies are able to charge for inmate calls, which advocates have long argued are excessive. Now Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is declining to defend that order in court.

Reps. Bobby Rush, Elijah Cummings, G.K. Butterfield and Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a letter to the FCC's general counsel that "overpriced phone rates" deter communications with outside support systems that reduce recidivism.

"Chairman Pai's sudden reversal raises serious questions about why the FCC is now choosing to promote the financial interests of private sector telecommunications companies over those of inmates and their families."

Why it matters: It can cost more than you think for an inmate to place a phone call from prison. Depending on the state, per-minute rates and connection fees can add up for prisoners and their families, who petitioned the FCC for relief years ago. (It's a complicated issue, which The Verge lays out in detail.)

The backstory: The FCC in 2015 capped rates for inmate phone calls—an effort led by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, now the lone Democrat on the panel. Phone companies serving prisons sued, challenging the FCC's authority to set in-state call rates. Pai, who as a commissioner also argued the agency overstepped, said the FCC wouldn't defend them in court. At oral arguments this week, the FCC declined to argue its case.

The FCC declined to comment.

Go deeper

Americans reflect on Independence Day amid racism reckoning

A Black Lives Matter banner and a United States flag on the facade of the U.S. embassy building in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

America's leaders are rethinking how they view Independence Day, as the country reckons with the historic, unequal treatment of people of color during a pandemic which has disproportionately affected nonwhite Americans.

Why it matters: The country’s legacy of racism has come into sharp focus in the weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. From Confederate statues to Mount Rushmore, Americans are reexamining the symbols and traditions they elevate and the history behind them.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 10,945,600 — Total deaths: 523,035 — Total recoveries — 5,797,206Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 2,767,669 — Total deaths: 128,951 — Total recoveries: 781,970 — Total tested: 33,462,181Map.
  3. Public health: The states where face coverings are mandatory Fauci says it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
  4. Economy: The economy may recover just quickly enough to kill political interest in more stimulus.
  5. States: Florida reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases, and its most-infected county issues curfew.
6 hours ago - Sports

Washington Redskins to review team name amid public pressure

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have announced they will be conducting a review of the team's name after mounting pressure from the public and corporate sponsors.

Why it matters: This review is the first formal step the Redskins are taking since the debate surrounding the name first began. It comes after weeks of discussions between the team and the NFL, the team said.