Mar 8, 2017

What tech should watch as FCC chief gets grilled by Congress

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (Zach Gibson / AP)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will face his first round of congressional questioning by the Senate Commerce Committee in an oversight hearing this morning.

  • He'll probably send signals about his plans for the 2015 FCC net neutrality rules he opposes. Committee Chairman John Thune also plans to say that there's "no reason" that the FCC shouldn't move to address the rules while Congress gets its act together on the issue, according to an excerpt of his opening statement.
  • Thune said he's interested in talking about rural broadband expansion. That's good news for Pai, who has made that a policy priority since he became chairman in January.
  • Watch for Democrats to cross-examine him over pulling back on other Wheeler initiatives, including privacy rules for broadband providers and changes to broadband access for low-income people and schools and libraries. Hawaii's Brian Schatz also said he would push Pai on how to engender a bipartisan spirit on the five-seat commission—something Pai has claimed his predecessor did not do.

The politics: This is an opportunity for tech's Democratic allies to hold Pai's feet to the fire. Congressional Republicans, though, think highly of Pai. "I plan to ask him how he got to be so capable and so smart, and to ask him if he understands how much we appreciate his great leadership," said Mississippi's Roger Wicker, seemingly in jest.

Go deeper

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.

George Floyd updates

Thousands of protesters march over the Brooklyn Bridge on June 4 in New York City. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

All four former Minneapolis police officers have been charged for George Floyd’s death and are in custody, including Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The latest: Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against President Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr and other federal officials on behalf of Black Lives Matter and other peaceful protesters who were forcibly removed with rubber bullets and chemical irritants before Trump's photo-op at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday.

The long journey to herd immunity

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The sought-after state of herd immunity — in which widespread outbreaks are prevented because enough people in a community are immune to a disease — is complicated by open questions about the effectiveness of a future vaccine and how COVID-19 spreads.

Why it matters: Unless a sufficient level of immunity is achieved in the population, the coronavirus could circulate indefinitely and potentially flare up as future outbreaks.