Oct 8, 2019

Trump and FCC's Pai lunched after net neutrality decision

President Trump with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in April. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Donald Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had lunch at the White House the day the FCC won a major legal battle over its repeal of net neutrality regulations, according to two people familiar with the gathering.

Why it matters: Interactions between FCC leaders and the White House have drawn intense scrutiny because the FCC is an independent agency. Both people described the gathering as a "family" event.

Details: The timing of the Oct. 1 lunch was a coincidence, both people said. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that morning upheld most of the FCC’s repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules, in a victory for Pai and the telecom industry.

  • Trump on Monday publicly praised Pai and the FCC for having “Just WON the big court case on Net Neutrality Rules!”
  • The federal appeals court also overruled the FCC’s attempt to broadly override state net neutrality regulations, which means many more legal battles ahead for the policy. Net neutrality advocates claimed victory for this part of the judgment.

What they're saying:

"The mere fact that he’s meeting with the chairman is not nefarious, but if the president — who has been known to direct his agency heads to do various and sundry things — directed the chairman to do something and the chairman does it, that’s very troublesome."
— Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law and former FCC official
  • An FCC spokesman declined comment and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper

FCC to vote on barring subsidies for Huawei, ZTE equipment

Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

The FCC will vote next month to ban companies from using federal telecom subsidies to purchase communications equipment from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE.

Driving the news: The FCC’s order, to be voted on at the commission’s Nov. 19 meeting, would bar companies that receive funding from the $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund from using it to purchase equipment or services from suppliers deemed to pose a national security risk.

Go deeperArrowOct 28, 2019

The fight over small-town TV

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

TV station owners are taking advantage of FCC rules to quietly take over small-town airwaves, but cable and satellite companies are crying foul to regulators.

Driving the news: Broadcasters aren't supposed to own more than one top-rated outlet in any market, but they are snapping up multiple stations anyway in small markets like Parkersburg, West Virginia and Greenville, Mississippi, as the broadcast TV market is challenged by changes in technology and advertising.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019

House bill would mandate public auction of 5G airwaves

5G cellphone tower in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers dropped a bill Thursday directing the FCC to hold a public auction of coveted midband airwaves.

The big picture: The FCC is contemplating allowing a group of satellite companies to privately sell the airwaves to wireless companies for 5G service, amid opposition from cable companies and a now-bipartisan set of lawmakers.

Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019