The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, will not be making a customary appearance at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the agency said Thursday.
“The chairman will not be attending CES,” said Brian Hart, an FCC spokesman.
Pai canceled his plans because of security concerns, according to an agency official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. The exact nature of the concerns was not immediately clear, and Hart declined to comment on “security measures or concerns.”
But one report on Thursday suggested that Pai may have changed his plans because of death threats he had received that were “linked specifically to the Vegas itinerary.” Pai has been a frequent target of hostility since he unveiled a proposal last year to deregulate the broadband industry by repealing the FCC's net neutrality rules. The agency repealed the rules last month, in a move that permitted Internet providers to speed up, slow down and block websites at will.
In the run-up to the decision, Pai told Fox News in November that opponents of the FCC had shown up at his Virginia home to harass his family. A number of signs, he said, were posted near his home that crossed a line.
“I understand that people are passionate about policy,” Pai said, “but the one thing in America that should remain sacred is that families, wives and kids, should remain out of it. And stop harassing us at our homes.”
The CES decision represents a break in precedent; the FCC's chairman typically participates in a keynote session at what is widely considered to be the world's biggest technology conference of the year. In addition to giving companies an opportunity to show off new gadgets and services, the show packs its agenda with policy panels that frequently involve high-level lawmakers and regulators.
Three other FCC commissioners, as well as the acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, are still expected to attend.
A spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association, which hosts CES, declined to comment.