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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A trio of Senate Republicans introduced legislation Wednesday that would lay the groundwork to force Big Tech companies to pay fees to support broadband subsidy programs.

Why it matters: Republicans are increasingly looking to Big Tech to support a struggling subsidy fund that pays for internet access and deployment programs.

Driving the news: The bill, from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.), would direct the Federal Communications Commission to study the feasibility of collecting fees from companies like Google and Netflix to shore up the agency's Universal Service Fund.

Catch up quick: Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in May outlined a plan to force Big Tech companies to pay into the subsidy fund.

  • Currently, a fee on phone bills goes into the Universal Service Fund, but that revenue base has been decreasing, prompting calls for reforming how contributions are made.

What they're saying: "As online platforms continue to dominate the internet landscape, we should consider the feasibility of Big Tech contributing to the USF to ensure rural areas are not left behind as we work to close the digital divide," Wicker said in a statement.

The other side: K. Dane Snowden, president of the Internet Association, said in a statement:"We recognize there are USF funding challenges, however we do not believe that new fees on internet companies are the solution."

Go deeper

Oct 28, 2021 - Technology

Zuckerberg swipes at rivals during Meta reveal

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

CEO Mark Zuckerberg took swipes at rivals Apple and Google during a Thursday keynote event where he announced Facebook's rebranding as Meta.

The big picture: Facebook has been trying to deflect regulatory scrutiny to its rivals Google and Apple as lawmakers home in on its acquisitions, content moderation and privacy woes.

Exclusive: Google warns customers about antitrust bills

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Google on Thursday warned some customers that antitrust bills targeting the tech giant could jeopardize the services small businesses rely on.

Why it matters: By turning to its customers, Google could drum up opposition from small businesses that may give lawmakers pause in advancing legislation.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.