Ajit PaiPhoto by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
ajit pai

As you are probably aware, next week is the annual Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas. But guess who you won’t see there? Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai will not be attending CES, but this is the second year in a row that he’s a no-show. Pai was scheduled to be interviewed by CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, Gary Shapiro. But a spokes person for Pai has confirmed that he won’t be able to make it to Las Vegas, due to the government shut down. But is that something we actually buy?

“The chairman will be unable to attend CES due to the partial funding lapse and the FCC suspending most operations starting today.”

I repeat the question – is this something that we actually buy? I’m asking because this kind of sounds like a way to get out of facing the firing squad so to speak. Presumably most (if not everyone) attending CES is likely fairly supportive of net neutrality. So it feels a bit like, he didn’t want to show his face because of the fact that he will have to admit to what they’ve been up to. Which if you haven’t been following is a removal of net neutrality rules. That said, the FCC is saying that it would not be able to follow through with most activities, “other than those immediately necessary for the protection of life or property, performing other excepted activities, or those funded through a source other than lapsed appropriations.”

That tells me that the FCC was going to pay for Pai to attend CES, and not the other way around. Which, is likely how these things work, but if they truly wanted him, maybe the Consumer Technology Association could have paid for his travel expenditures?

In general, however, the lack of funding has meant that most of the agency’s employees have been furloughed. The Chairman and four FCC commissioners will still be showing up to work, and funding is limited, so I’m not completely surprised that travel has been restricted.

I’m honestly torn with this. On one hand, I can certainly appreciate the fact that the government is shut down, so I think Pai is being responsible. But on the other hand, I think that the government shut down is an out for him, rather than the real reason for not going. The shut down happened at a convenient time. Last year, he pulled out of CES due to safety concerns which stemmed for alleged death threats that he had received in relation to the repeal of net neutrality.

While this doesn’t bode well for Pai, it doesn’t really have any impact on whether or not net neutrality rules will be reinstated. Ironically, one of the services that will be unavailable during the government shut down is being able to file a complaint with the Consumer Complaint Center. Meaning, if you’re having problems with your internet or you’re not happy with how much you have to pay, you can’t complain to the FCC just yet.