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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case brought to it by the Federal Communications Commission, with support from the National Association of Broadcasters, about the FCC's longtime attempts to relax media ownership rules.

Why it matters: The case will determine whether a 2017 FCC rule allowing broadcast companies to own more than one of the top four stations in a market can stand. If it does, it will likely usher in even more local broadcast consolidation in the U.S.

Details: The FCC asked the Supreme Court to take up the case in April, after a lower court last year ruled against the agency's deregulatory changes.

  • The FCC's GOP majority voted in the changes in 2017, arguing that the ownership restrictions were outdated and that broadcasters should be freer to find buyers in order to compete with internet platforms.
  • The lower court's decision was met by frustration from Republicans, who have been pursuing a deregulatory agenda for the telecom and broadcast companies the FCC oversees since President Trump took office. They noted that the panel of judges overseeing the decision has repeatedly rejected the FCC's attempts to reform what they see as an outdated law.

What they're saying: "Hope #SCOTUS affirms authority Congress gave us to amend ownership rules in light of a media marketplace that’s changed dramatically since 1975—especially with local news outlets struggling more than ever," FCC chairman Ajit Pai tweeted.

What's next: Analyst Paul Cowen said in a research note that he expects oral arguments in February and a ruling by June.

Go deeper: The local TV consolidation race is here

Go deeper

Updated Dec 3, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: The future of broadband connectivity

Axios' Erica Pandey, Dan Primack, and Ashley Gold hosted a conversation on the future of broadband connectivity, featuring FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, Per Scholas CEO Plinio Ayala and DreamBox CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson.

Geoffrey Starks discussed the impact of the digital divide, citing research that shows that more than 77 million Americans lack adequate broadband in their home. He also highlighted the racial disparity, adding that 1 in 3 Black adults and more than 1 in 3 Latino adults don't have home broadband connections.

  • On why broadband connection is especially critical during the pandemic: "Access to telemedicine and telehealth via affordable, reliable broadband is going to be extremely important to making sure that folks can safely manage their health from home."

Jessie Woolley-Wilson suggested that broadband should be treated as a household utility, highlighting that primary barriers to access are due to cost or location.

  • On the severity of the issue: "Imagine if there were homes that didn't have electricity or heat — we would figure out policy solutions to that, and I think we have to start thinking about access to broadband almost like it was a utility."

Plinio Ayala argued that the U.S. government needs to focus on workforce development, providing American workers with IT skills to meet the shifting technological and economic landscape.

  • "A lot of the skills that workers obtain in the hospitality sector or in the retail sector, customer service skills are incredibly transferable into the I.T. space...AI was going to cause a disruption in our workforce regardless [and] the pandemic just accelerated that."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with The Internet & Television Association president and CEO Michael Powell and discussed how COVID-19 has been a stress test for network capacity and people have had to shift work and school to home.

  • "[COVID-19] was the greatest experiment in stressing the Internet that we've had in the history of the Internet...How they performed [is] really a culmination of years of of investment, years of excellence in engineering and a cultural commitment to the needs of our country at a time where the public health response is dependent on the ability to let consumers stay at home to work and school."

Thank you Comcast for sponsoring this event.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon approves request for 100 National Guard troops for "Justice for J6" rally

Security fencing has been reinstalled around the Capitol. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request from Capitol Police to provide 100 D.C. National Guard troops in case law enforcement requires additional support at Saturday's "Justice for J6" rally at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Security preparations have ramped up ahead of the pro-Trump demonstration, where hundreds of protesters sympathetic to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack are expected to gather.

Biden threatens new sanctions against Ethiopian officials over Tigray conflict

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden on Friday signed an executive order allowing the Treasury and State departments to impose sanctions against Ethiopian officials "responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict" in the Tigray region.

Driving the news: Hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine conditions in Tigray, but less than 10% of the needed humanitarian supplies has reached the region over the last month "due to the obstruction of aid access" by the Ethiopian government, according to Biden administration officials.