FCC chair Ajit Pai backs out of CES appearance

Chelsea West
January 5, 2018

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has unexpectedly cancelled an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Pai had been scheduled for a show appearance, but canceled Wednesday, according to a source. While many in the technology industry are not happy with PAI's aggressive move to end Net Neutrality, SHAPIRO and the CTA were supportive of PAI.

The death threat reason for the cancellation was confirmed to Recode by two agency sources.

An FCC spokesman refused to comment on why Pai decided not to attend the conference.

Pai has been targeted by death threats on social media after his agency approved to strip Obama-era net neutrality rules.

As expected the FCC voted in favor of repealing the regulation for 3-2 on December 14.

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This is not the first time that the chairman of the FCC has suffered safety concerns. For 2017 CES, then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler agreed to a one-on-one but withdrew a few weeks before CES. Another change was made at the request of Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly about the commission invoking authority from Section 218 or Title III of the Communications Act to enforce the transparency requirements.

The report said that federal law enforcement had looked into the situation and other FCC offices would be briefed.

In November, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against a Syracuse man for allegedly threatening to kill a NY member of Congress unless he backed net neutrality. Pai has been widely criticized after his FCC voted to roll back net neutrality legislation that protected consumers.

The fear is that consumers will have to pay for more expensive packages to stream Netflix, or tech companies will have to negotiate deals directly with providers. Either way the big ISPs would probably do best not to start rolling out overtly non-neutral services and restrictions just yet (or even at all) lest they provide more ready ammunition for the municipal broadband advocates.

But the U-turn on the rules faces legal challenges, including one led by New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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