FCC chairman Ajit Pai has canceled his scheduled appearance at this year's CES, according to the Consumer Technology Association which organizes the world's largest electronics fair. CTA CEO Gary Shapiro simply stated that Pai would be unable to attend and that he hopes to have a chance to speak publicly with Pai regarding tech policy in the near future. Pai's attendance was announced back in November, and word that he will not be attending comes less than a week before the tech show begins. In a correspondence with Digital Trends, Shapiro added the cancellation possibly came due to the fear of violence or violent threats stemming from the reaction to Pai's controversial decision to end net neutrality regulations in the United States.
CES is an international tech trade show that takes place in the United States, specifically in Las Vegas, Nevada. This means that hundreds of thousands of domestic and international attendees, journalists, and exhibitors from tech companies descend upon the city for the three-day event. Given the massive backlash against Pai's decision and spearheaded 3-2 vote concerning net neutrality, it's conceivable that many in attendance would not see him favorably. Still, with no official comment from Pai or the FCC at this point, there's no way of knowing for sure if this is why Pai chose not to attend the fair for the first time in half a decade.
For those not in the know, net neutrality protections have been around since 2015 in the United States. Referred to as Title II regulations, they yoked telecoms and internet service providers to the same set of regulations faced by utility companies. The main point was to prevent companies from treating some web traffic differently from others, throttling traffic, or censoring the internet, which would effectively constitute an attack on free speech. As soon as President Donald Trump appointed him to the office, Pai attacked net neutrality laws and eventually succeeded in drafting a proposal to abolish Title II regulations. The proposal was brought before the FCC for a vote, and divided up among party lines, with the majority Republicans in the Commission representing 3 of the 5 available votes, thus setting the process of abolishing net neutrality protections. Free speech advocates, tech companies like Google and Facebook, and many citizens across the net opposed the decision, creating a sizeable backlash.