Washington officials hit Vegas to rub elbows with Silicon Valley

So it’s not surprising that the White House has a big presence this week.

Aneesh Chopra, Obama’s chief technology officer, was a popular personality as he toured the show floor yesterday. Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin was also on hand to talk about broadband deployment.

Susan Crawford, the former technology advisor to the president, is here. So is Anna Gomez, deputy assistant secretary for communications in the Commerce Department. Her agency is charged with doling out $4.7 billion in stimulus money for broadband projects.

The Federal Communications Commission has taken a starring role at this year’s conference, which is traditionally the launching pad for new products and companies.

Chairman Julius Genachowski is speaking Friday between meetings with multiple CEOs from companies like Comcast and Verizon. Commissioners Robert McDowell, Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Attwell Baker are speaking on a panel on Saturday.

Companies will be jostling to get in front of the politicians, staffers and regulators as they tour the show floor. Connections with the FCC commissioners are particularly important, since the agency will be making decisions about broadband, net neutrality and media distribution this year that will make or break business models on display at CES.

For example, the mobile TV offerings broadcasters are touting this year will only survive if the FCC doesn't take away the airwaves they need for the service.

The FCC is also looking for new, more efficient wireless technologies. Products that use femtocells are a big hit with administration officials this year. Femtocells allow wireless capacity to be unloaded onto a Wi-fi or landline network, helping to ease the strain experienced by cellphone networks these days.

Lawmakers and staffers are making the rounds, and aides from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over many of the technologies rolled out at the CES, may have the biggest showing from Capitol Hill. 

A staffer representing the panel’s chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), is in Vegas. So are telecom staff for Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology, Communications and the Internet, and ranking member Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).

Capitol Hill staffers spoke on panels Thursday and made the rounds at evening cocktail receptions. Many also attended a party at the glitzy Palazzo last night.

House Republicans Darrell Issa and Kevin McCarthy are scheduled to speak Friday about Congress' priorities in 2010.