Net Neutrality: FCC Chairman Pai Pulls Out Of CES 2018

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

FCC chairman cancels CES show appearance after overturning net neutrality rules, due to reported death threats

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

Pai was slated to participate in a “candid conversation” on 9th January with FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, who will still attend.

However, it is reported that Pai abruptly cancelled his appearance at the tech industry trade show because of death threats.

MWC 2017 FCC Ajit Pai

 

Death Threats

This comes after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted (as expected) in December to reverse Net Neutrality regulations, in a move that could damage the future of an open Internet in the United States.

That vote was opposed by many in the tech industry and beyond, and now it seems that Pai, who has attended the previous five CES shows, took the decision not because he would more than likely face protests and a hostile reception, but because of death threats.

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

“We do not comment on security measures or concerns,” a spokesman for Pai at the FCC told Recode.

It is the second time that Pai’s safety has been threatened. He had to halt his controversial vote to scrap the US government’s net neutrality rules in December after a bomb threat.

That vote later took place on 15 December.

This is not the first time that the chairman of the FCC has suffered safety concerns. In 2014 protesters camped outside the home of then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, and prevented him from leaving his driveway.

 

Net neutrality was the issue back then as well.

It is understood that the Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr each plan to attend CES.

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Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump, and he always wanted to reserve the landmark net neutrality rules that were delivered under the former Obama administration.

Pai has previously said net neutrality were “a mistake” and he favoured a ‘light touch’ regime of regulation that would ‘not stifle innovation’.

In December the FCC voted 3-2 to overturn the net neutrality rules, meaning ISPs will be able to block or slow down access to certain services.

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. Businesses could also be restricted in their use of some cloud services.

ISPs will however have to be transparent about what restrictions are in place, but many Americans are only able to access broadband services from one provider.

But the FCC vote does faces legal challenges, including one led by New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman.

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