FCC Chairman Pai cancels CES appearance

Following a controversial vote to end Obama-era net neutrality protections, the agency's head calls off plans to be panelist at the tech industry's annual trade show.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai has canceled plans to speak at the CES tech trade show in Las Vegas next week.

FCC Holds Vote On Repeal Of Net Neutrality Rules

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will not speak this year at CES.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Pai was scheduled to sit down Tuesday with the head of the Federal Trade Commission, fellow Republican Maureen Ohlhausen, as part of a conversation moderated by Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro.

This would have marked the first time Pai appeared at the annual trade show as chairman of the FCC. Pai has attended the show in the past as a commissioner for the FCC.

Pai, who was appointed as chairman of the FCC last year by President Donald Trump, has come under fire from Democrats and net neutrality supporters after the agency voted 3-2 to dismantle rules passed by the Obama administration. The 2015 rules were designed to ensure that all traffic on the internet is treated equally and to prevent broadband and wireless providers from blocking or slowing online content. The agency also voted to eliminate the legal foundation that gives the FCC oversight over internet service providers.

Supporters of net neutrality say the rules are necessary to ensure broadband companies don't abuse their power as gatekeepers of the internet. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter supported the 2015 rules. But broadband providers say the rules were too onerous and stifled investment. Broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon along with the Consumer Technology Association, which sponsors the CES tradeshow, support the FCC's repeal of the rules. 

Net neutrality supporters have vowed to continue to fight for protections. Legal challenges to the repeal are being planned. And Democrats in Congress are trying to use the Congressional Review Act to get the FCC's vote overturned. The CRA gives Congress the power to reverse a federal agency's ruling within 60 legislative days of it being taken. But in order to do that, a majority in both houses of Congress must support the move, something that's unlikely in the current politically divisive environment.

The FCC declined to comment on Pai's cancellation. 

CTA provided only a brief statement on the cancellation:  "Unfortunately, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is unable to attend CES 2018. We look forward to our next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience."

FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr, Michael O'Rielly and Mignon Clyburn are still scheduled to appear on a panel at CES on Tuesday. 

Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility. 

Special Reports: CNET's in-depth features in one place.