Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is angering a lot of powerful people as his chairmanship hits its fourth and potentially final year. The Pentagon, the Commerce Department and the Department of Transportation. Electric utilities, airlines and the auto industry. Public safety officials and weather forecasters. Top lawmakers of both parties, including Sen John Kennedy (R-LA) an ally of President Donald Trump’s who controls the FCC’s purse strings on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
He rails against the "far left's" hoaxes. He says the World Health Organization has been “beclowned” over its response to the coronavirus. And he describes a “secret and partisan surveillance machine” run by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA). Those aren't President Donald Trump's words. They came from Brendan Carr, the junior Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, who is embracing a flavor of distinctly Trumpian rhetoric that could help him leapfrog his way to the chairmanship of the five-member regulatory agency.
Private parties have a right to challenge a merger after it has been completed, the Justice Department (DOJ) told an appeals court, in a case with big implications for future antitrust break-ups. Jeld-Wen, one of the country’s biggest manufacturers of doors, is seeking to overturn a court order that would unwind its 2012 merger with rival Craftmaster International and require it to pay $176 million in lost profits to Steves & Sons, a customer who sued over the deal.
Democratic congressional staffers are signaling fresh optimism that some money for broadband will make it into another coronavirus relief package long mulled on Capitol Hill. Republicans are “proceeding politically a little more cautiously right now” in deference to GOP leadership, but “we know privately that there are Republicans that would be very supportive of spending more money on E-Rate or Lifeline or Rural Healthcare,” said Joey Wender, senior policy adviser to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
The Trump administration is signaling a broader crackdown on the Chinese communications sector — well beyond the companies that have already come under harsh US scrutiny. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Adam Hickey said that the government’s past objections to powerful Chinese telecommunications players operating in the US may provide a blueprint for the Federal Communications Commission to pursue other firms as well. “We’re concerned about providers that are subject to the undue influence and control of the Chinese government,” said Hickey.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is making calling and video visitation free for inmates after the coronavirus forced a halt to in-person visits, the agency said in a letter to Congress. “Effective April 9, 2020, telephone calls were made free for the inmate population,” Bureau Director Michael Carvajal wrote to Sen.
The great American lockdown that put the economy on ice is fueling hopes of a 5G boom. US mobile carriers were already planning to spend big on deploying superfast wireless internet in the coming years. Then the coronavirus pushed a massive nationwide adoption of Zoom video conferences, distance learning, online doctors’ visits and daylong Netflix binges — and the top internet providers are ready to spend a lot more. Verizon announced it was boosting its estimated capital investment for this year by $500 million, to as much as $18.5 billion, to accelerate its 5G efforts.
Capitol Hill is locked in a fight over how much money to funnel to help students and teachers sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic get access to online learning, creating uncertainty for school districts as lawmakers and the White House rush to finalize a package of emergency measures. Millions of students are currently stuck at home as schools across the nation close, some without access to broadband internet and other tools needed to engage in remote learning.
Local government officials are grappling with how to keep communications flowing for the millions of people who have retreated to their homes. “This is a true test of all of our connectivity, whether it's through a satellite provider, cable provider, cellphone provider,” said Rita Reynolds, the chief technology officer for the National Association of Counties. Her trade association is in the middle of assessing how local chief information officers and IT directors are processing the logistical challenges prompted by COVID-19.