Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the coronavirus pandemic binding Americans to their home internet service, policymakers are moving to bolster the WiFi networks those homes use.

The big picture: WiFi use has already been exploding as consumers connect more devices to their home broadband networks, a trend that's only accelerated with the coronavirus. Yet it's been years since the spectrum dedicated to carrying that load has been expanded.

Driving the news: The Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve a plan to augment WiFi capacity this month.

  • Chairman Ajit Pai's order would make 1,200 megahertz of additional spectrum available for WiFi use, creating the capacity for new WiFi use cases, such as immersive online learning.

Why it matters: The broadband connections into Americans' homes appear to be holding up against the recent surge in residential traffic, but WiFi still poses a potential bottleneck.

  • That's particularly the case in densely populated areas, where many people's WiFi signals are crammed into the swaths of airwaves currently set aside for the technology.
  • "The internet is WiFi," said Carl Leuschner, senior vice president of Charter Communications' internet and voice products. "If WiFi is not great, the internet will not be great for consumers — that is how they connect.”

By the numbers: Cable companies reported a 19% increase in peak downstream traffic and a 33% increase in peak upstream traffic since March 1, according to data compiled by cable trade group NCTA.

  • That means an increase in WiFi use. Charter, for instance, notes that more than 90% of devices on its network connect via WiFi.
  • "In many households, daytime internet traffic has doubled, even tripled from pre-pandemic levels," Charter's chief technology officer Stephanie Mitchko-Beale said. But demand continues to peak during the evening between 8pm and 9pm.
  • The company's network supports more than 300 million IP devices, and about 80% of the wireless data consumed on its customers' mobile devices arrives via WiFi.

Yes, but: The changes the FCC has in store for WiFi won't be immediate. New routers, laptops and phones that can use the newly opened airwaves will have to be manufactured and rolled out to customers first.

  • Broadcom's Chris Szymanski, director of product marketing and government affairs, estimated that could happen by the end of the year, and customers who don't immediately upgrade could still benefit.
  • "As this is launched, this takes the strain off the existing networks," Szymanski said. "If only two of your neighbors aren’t using the spectrum anymore, your experience is going to improve."
  • That could mean relief for people whose WiFi is now suffering, should the pandemic's impact on how people live and work prove lasting.

What they're saying: "The biggest benefit consumers will see is ... faster speeds to the consumer device," NCTA vice president and associate general counsel Danielle Piñeres told Axios. "That’s going to be huge for video streaming, for video conferencing."

  • But wireless trade group CTIA wanted the agency to make some of the airwaves Pai plans to allocate to WiFi available instead for licensed, 5G use.
  • "While the FCC has done a remarkable job freeing up critical licensed spectrum for 5G, the United States faces a growing mid-band deficit," CTIA executive vice president Brad Gillen said in a statement. "It is essential that the FCC and the administration develop a roadmap to close this deficit before moving forward with plans to give away the full 1,200 MHz in the 6 GHz band and further limit our few remaining options.”

Meanwhile: The FCC did make more airwaves available immediately last month for wireless broadband providers, largely in rural areas.

  • 33 wireless internet service providers received temporary approval to use spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band to meet demand from the coronavirus pandemic. Those airwaves are currently allotted for vehicle safety communications, but the FCC is separately mulling changes to the band.
  • "With more people teleworking and more students learning from home, our members have seen an increase in demand for new installations as well as for increasing service to places that already have broadband," said Claude Aiken, president of the Wireless Internet Service Provider's Association.

Go deeper

Top general: Calls to China were "perfectly within the duties" of job

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told the Associated Press on Friday that calls with his Chinese counterpart during the final months of Donald Trump's presidency were "perfectly within the duties and responsibilities" of his job.

Why it matters: In his first public comments on the calls that have prompted critics to question whether the general went too far, Milley maintained that such conversations are "routine," per AP.

The consumer's massive "war chest"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Economists expect the pace of economic growth to cool off now that government transfer payments like stimulus checks and emergency unemployment benefits are in the rearview mirror. But evidence suggests that the U.S. consumer is sitting on a lot of financial firepower that could be a key driver of growth in the quarters to come.

Why it matters: U.S. consumer spending is massive, representing about 70% of GDP.

The Fed takes on its own rules amid stock trading controversy

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New disclosures that showed Fed officials were active in financial markets set off a firestorm of criticism. Now the Fed may overhaul the long-standing rules that allow those transactions.

Why it matters: What officials actively traded was sensitive to the Fed decisions they helped shape, including the unprecedented support that underpinned a massive financial market boom.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!