CES, the tech industry's largest annual trade show, begins next week (Jan. 9-12), but the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will not be attending.
Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes CES, announced today that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has canceled his appearance one week before the show.
"Unfortunately, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is unable to attend CES 2018," Shapiro's statement reads.
"We look forward to our next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience."
This year, Pai was slated to appear on a panel with CTA CEO Gary Shapiro to discuss connectivity and broadband access.
CTA has provided no further indication of the reasoning behind Pai's decision. But just a month after the FCC's repeal of net neutrality, of which Pai was champion, the conference probably wouldn't have welcomed him with open arms.
An online petition demanding his resignation collected over 10,000 signatures in December, and an op-ed he published in November arguing for repealing net neutrality prompted massive collective outrage across the internet .
Some Twitter users are postulating what — let's be honest — we're all thinking.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is “unable” to attend CES 2018.
Somehow I don’t think he’d make it very far if he actually did go lol pic.twitter.com/FzSU9pg3ud
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) January 3, 2018
— xxnike629xx (@xxnike0629xx) January 3, 2018
Ajit Pai chickening out on going to CES is the first smart thing I've seen him do.
— Stephen Schenck (@StephenSchenck) January 3, 2018
Others were excited for Pai to have to defend his decision before the tech world, and are probably disappointed now. One such user called for the chairman to "show up and face real innovators," while another posited that he had "'splaining' to do."
— Patricia #NetNeutrality* (@perlop) November 29, 2017
Pity that Tom Wheeler isn’t still in charge. I enjoyed his thoughtful panel discussions at @CES . In 2017 he was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Ajit Pai. Wonder if he’d dare to show up and face real innovators instead of making assumptions.
— John Mahony (@jmirish1) December 14, 2017
However, if you were hoping to express your strong opinions about net neutrality at CES this year, don't lose hope. Pai's fellow FCC commissioners Brendan Carr, Mignon Clyburn, Michael O'Reilly and Jessica Rosenworcel are also scheduled to attend the conference, and will be hosting a roundtable discussion. CTA has not indicated that any of these commissioners will be cancelling their appearances.