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FCC logo displayed on smart phone. Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Add another potential casualty of the government shutdown: tech product launches.

The big picture: The Consumer Electronic Show is taking place in Las Vegas this week, where gazillions of products get announced. But the Federal Communications Commission — the agency tasked with authorizing new devices using radio frequencies — is on furlough along with the rest of the federal government.

How it works: There's a trade show exemption that allows companies to discuss or announce products even if they haven’t been formally approved by the FCC. But they can’t be marketed or sold without that authorization. RF devices needing FCC approval include cellphones as well as Internet of Things devices such as smart appliances or "smart home" gadgets.

What's happening: As an independent agency with alternative funding mechanisms, the FCC stayed open longer than many other agencies. It suspended operations a week ago, on Jan. 3.

  • However, the agency said a small staff will continue work related to "the protection of life and property" — which could include things like 911 outages or weather-related communications disruptions.
  • Up to 200 employees are continuing work on spectrum auctions, which is funded by auction proceeds.
  • All told, about 17% of the FCC's workers have been retained for various essential purposes without pay or are being paid via funding other than the lapsed appropriations.

What isn't happening: In addition to product authorizations, other suspended activities include work on consumer complaints, enforcement actions and licensing proceedings. The FCC also reviews major deals — like the pending merger of Sprint and T-Mobile — and those reviews have also stopped.

"It does stifle business opportunity and strategy," said Marc Martin, chairman of the communications practice at law firm Perkins Coie, who noted that some of his clients are annoyed by the shutdown disruption to business plans: "Companies rely on government timelines for things to get resolved."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

5 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

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