Pai had been scheduled to participate in a keynote session, as the head of the FCC has regularly done at past editions of the massive tech trade show.
Digital Music News, which has covered the net neutrality debate, cited two unidentified “sources on Capitol Hill” in reporting the reason for the cancellation just days before Pai was scheduled to appear. “Pai’s security detail is now ‘untenable’ with ‘multiple, unsubstantiated death threats’ linked specifically to the Vegas itinerary,” the site reported. “One source indicated that such threats are ‘routine for presidents and vice presidents’ but highly unusual for heads of government agencies like the FCC.”
In response to Deadline’s inquiry about the reasons for Pai’s cancellation, FCC spokesman Brian Hart confirmed Pai had pulled out, but said via email, “We don’t have anything to share at this time.”
Security at CES has already been tightened in recent years, as terrorist threats have arisen and the trade show has grown to more than 200,000 attendees.
Activists provoked by the FCC’s net neutrality moves, which could set the stage for Internet “fast lanes” and the gating of content, have already targeted Pai personally. Last fall, as momentum was building toward the agency’s December 14 vote on the issue, Pai’s suburban Washington home was picketed by protesters carrying signs naming Pai’s children. They also sent a constant stream of pizza deliveries to the home. Pai later criticized the protesters for “crossing the line,” and invoked the behavior by activists during FCC open meetings.
The head of the FCC also typically visits Las Vegas in April as well to address the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention, a gathering that has become nearly as sprawling as CES.