Jonathan Adelstein Leaving FCC for RUS

As expected, President Barack Obama has nominated two-term FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein to run the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the Department of Agriculture.

RUS is the division that loans money to service providers to build networks in areas that aren’t big revenue-generators. RUS also is responsible for a couple of billion dollars’ worth of economic stimulus funds set aside for broadband network buildouts. Adelstein would oversee how those funds are distributed if the Senate confirms his nomination, which seems likely.

Adelstein has served on the FCC since 2002. He makes a good fit as head of the RUS – Adelstein comes from South Dakota and has remained well-versed in issues facing rural America.

If Adelstein leaves soon, only two commissioners will be left at the FCC – Acting Chairman Michael Copps, a Democrat, and Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican. The communications industry is waiting for Congress to confirm Obama’s nominee for the FCC chairmanship, Julius Genachowski. But the economy is taking precedence over other matters on the Hill so it’s unknown when lawmakers will get around to confirmation hearings for Genachowski.

And even with Genachowski in place, Obama will need to fill Adelstein’s slot as well as the positions that’s sat empty since Deborah Tate left the FCC earlier this year.

According to unconfirmed reports, Mignon Clyburn, a South Carolina public service commissioner and daughter of Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, House Majority Whip, is in line to replace Adelstein at the FCC.

Obama announced Adelstein’s nomination late last Friday.

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