CES becomes latest victim of US government shutdown

Following the FCC chairman's cancellation, CES organizers warn of more speakers bowing out.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read

Outside the Las Vegas Convention Center at last year's CES.

Josh Miller/CNET

Just before the world's biggest tech show kicks off in a few days, organizers are warning that several speakers will be canceling due to an ongoing US government shutdown.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is expected to bring nearly 200,000 tech enthusiasts and leaders to Las Vegas, with the show kicking off Sunday. But on Saturday, Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, which runs the show, sent out a short statement warning that a number of speakers who work for the US government had to cancel their appearances.

Sarah Brown, a CTA spokeswoman, said 10 speakers have canceled so far. Those speakers come from the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Communications Commission and several other agencies. She added that there are no current plans to replace those speakers with other programming.

"Because of the government shutdown, some of our scheduled government speakers at CES 2019 have alerted us that they must cancel their travel to the show," Shapiro wrote in the statement. "As a result, some of our scheduled CES 2019 programming and speakers will change. We urge attendees who planned to hear US federal government speakers to check the sessions on the website to ensure those individuals are still speaking."

The CES speaker lineup will be regularly updated with any changes.

The partial shutdown began Dec. 22 after Congress failed to come to agreement on President Donald Trump's demand for $5 billion to fund work on a border wall between the US and Mexico. The shutdown has continued even after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives this week, when the new Congress convened in Washington. 

On Friday, Trump said he was willing to let the shutdown last for months or over a year. That could impact far more than one trade show, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without pay and multiple federal agencies slowing their work to a crawl.

Staff for Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, already announced that Pai had to cancel his appearance, which was slated to include an interview with Shapiro. Most of the FCC's employees have been furloughed, meaning they're on unpaid leave until the shutdown ends. Pai and the four FCC commissioners are still coming into work, but their travel is restricted because of limited funding.

This will be the second year in a row that Pai has canceled an appearance at CES, with the chairman last year avoiding the show reportedly due to death threats.

Here's the full list of canceled government speakers at CES 2019:

  • Brandon Bray, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Brendan Carr, FCC
  • Rohit Chopra, Federal Trade Commission
  • Andre Hentz, Department of Homeland Security
  • Barnes Johnson, EPA
  • Daniel Kaniewski, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Ajit Pai, FCC
  • Bakul Patel, Food and Drug Administration
  • Rebecca Slaughter, FTC
  • Arun Verdury, DHS

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