President Obama nominated FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein to be the administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, giving new impetus in the push to expand broadband service in rural areas.
Expanding broadband service across the country was one of Obama's chief technology policy pledges during the presidential campaign. The economic stimulus package passed by Congress includes $7.2 billion for broadband buildout. The RUS is receiving some of that money and will issue grants and loans to expand broadband service to rural areas. The RUS also provides other utility services in rural parts of the country.
Broadband expansion is likely to be one of the major issues the FCC takes up this year. The Agriculture Department and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) recently held a series of meetings in Washington, D.C. to flesh out guidelines for how the money will be distributed.
Adelstein's nomination drew praise from several quarters.
"A native of Rapid City, South Dakota, Jonathan Adelstein knows from personal experience the communications needs of the rural America communities that ACA's independent cable companies have been serving for decades," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew Polka said. "ACA looks forward to working with Adelstein after he arrives at RUS on implementing the $2.5 billion RUS loan program intended to stimulate high-speed Internet access in unserved and underserved communities."
Adelstein also received praise form FCC Acting Chairman Michael Copps. "Jonathan will, upon his confirmation, bring a depth of knowledge, experience and commitment to the job that will enable him to make a huge contribution to advancing the well-being of rural America," Copps said in a statement. "He knows the issues and challenges inside-out and will be able to hit the ground running, which is exactly what's needed since RUS has been given such extraordinary responsibilities by the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."
Adelstein has been a commissioner since 2002. He was reconfirmed in 2004.
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