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FCC Chair Ajit Pai cancels his CES appearance days before show

Enlarge/ FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during the National As..

Enlarge/ FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas on April 25, 2017.Getty Images | Ethan Miller

Ajit Pai was scheduled to appear at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on January 9 to speak and answer questions in a "candid conversation" about Federal Communications Commission policymaking. But Pai canceled his appearance, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs the CES conference.

"Unfortunately, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is unable to attend CES 2018," CTA CEO Gary Shapiro said in an announcement emailed to journalists attending CES yesterday. "We look forward to our next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience."

Pai and Federal Trade Commission Acting Chair Maureen Ohlhausen were to appear in a session titled "Insights from the FCC and FTC." His scheduled appearance was announced in November.

"Join FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen as they sit down with CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro for two candid conversations about the challenges they face as their agencies navigate the constantly evolving technological landscape," the session description read until earlier this week.

Given Pai's cancellation, only Ohlhausen will appear with Shapiro during the session.

There's been no explanation from the FCC for Pai's decision to cancel the appearance, which would have come just weeks after the FCC voted to eliminate net neutrality rules. We asked the FCC chair's office why the appearance was canceled and will update this story if we get a response.

Shapiro spoke to Digital Trends and said that Pai did not tell him why he was canceling the appearance. Shapiro speculated that concerns about violence might have dissuaded Pai from appearing.

"He and his family have been subject to vicious and direct attacks and threats and any decision he makes regarding his own travel is fine with me," Shapiro told the news site.

Pai did appear in public for numerous speeches in the weeks and months leading up to the net neutrality repeal. The FCC's net neutrality repeal vote was briefly interrupted by a bomb threat but resumed after a search of the meeting room.

Net neutrality repeal

Pai's FCC last month voted to deregulate the broadband industry and eliminate net neutrality rules that prohibit Internet service providers from blocking and throttling Internet traffic. The FCC also eliminated a ban on paid prioritization, rules requiring greater disclosure of hidden fees and penalties for exceeding data caps, and various other consumer protections.

The FCC's repeal order also claims the authority to prevent state and local governments from enacting their own, similar net neutrality and disclosure rules. State attorneys general have vowed to sue the FCC to stop the repeal order and state preemption.

Pai might have had to answer questions about the repeal and coming lawsuits if he had gone through with his scheduled appearance at CES. The net neutrality rules that Pai's FCC eliminated were supported by majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters.

Three of the other four commissioners (Democrat Mignon Clyburn and Republicans Brendan Carr and Michael O'Rielly) will appear in another roundtable session to discuss regulatory and policy issues. Pai has appeared at those roundtables in previous years, when he was a commissioner but not the chair.

Then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee, announced his net neutrality plans during his 2015 appearance at CES. In 2016, 11 months after the FCC voted to impose the rules, Wheeler returned to CES and answered questions on stage from Shapiro about the rules and their prospects for surviving lawsuits filed by broadband industry lobby groups. The rules were later upheld in court, only to be undone after Pai took over as chair.

Wheeler backed out of his CES appearance in 2017, but his policymaking days were coming to a close. Later that month, Wheeler resigned from the commission due to the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who then elevated Pai to the chairmanship.

Original Article

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Ars Technica

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