The FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai will be skipping his second consecutive CES event, POLITICO Pro Technology reports, citing the ongoing partial US government shutdown and resulting scaled back FCC operations. The chairman had originally been scheduled to participate in a moderated discourse with Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Technology Association. The talk was set to center around the agency's future plans. Pai won't be alone in this respect as the FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr also had to cancel on CES 2019 as well. Mr. Carr had intended to be a participant in a roundtable discussion at the tech-focused event with FTC commissioner Rebecca Slaughter. That panel talk was intended to be centered around regulatory and policy issues for consumers including 5G and privacy as well as regulations and policies.
From threats of violence to a lack of funding
Compared to this year's event, the chairman's withdrawal from the event in 2018 stemmed from a more concerning string of events, with the chairman having being advised against attending amid death threats and other promises of retaliation for his role in ending Title II net neutrality regulations. That news marked the first time in more than half a decade that the FCC's acting chairman has skipped speaking publicly at the event. The uproar surrounded the end of consumer protections implemented in 2015 against shady internet practices such as throttling or giving preferential treatment to select services or sites. The FCC had argued that the regulations were prohibitive to carriers and ISPs but its argument only managed to garner a resulting 3-2 vote against the measure.
Mr. Pai has recently been applauding the efforts of Congress to ensure that net neutrality stays repealed but that appears to be beside the point with regard to his reason for skipping yet another CES event. Instead, the current US government shutdown has impacted the FCC's funding, preventing the Commission from accomplishing many of the tasks it is designed to do. That appears to include funding for public speaking events and similar interactions. The shutdown itself is the result of disagreements surrounding other government funding and the financing of a large barrier at the southern border of the country.
Continuing net neutrality discussion
In spite of Mr. Pai's claims that net neutrality is effectively dead, it may actually be a relief for the chairman to avoid discussions which may lean in the direction of the topic. CES is among the largest consumer electronics-specific gatherings in the world and the decision to end net neutrality did, and still faces staunch opposition. A substantial portion of that stems from the community that typically attends the event annually. In fact, a collective of more than three dozen state attorney generals, consumer advocacy organizations, and technology companies are in the process of suing the FCC over the repeal. One major sticking point in that case is the FCC's decision to include language in the repeal that made it against the rules for any state to create or instate its own net neutrality regulations or laws.