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FCC: Genachowski Mulled, Adelstein Pulled

WASHINGTON: Julius Genchowski’s nomination to chair the FCC officially landed in the Senate, this week, and Democratic commissioner Jonathan Adelstein officially landed his next gig.

Adelstein is being shipped over to head the Rural Utilities Service division of the Agriculture Department. He’ll be in charge of a $2.5 billion effort to deploy broadband in sparsely populated areas, a strategy he’s supported during his seven-year tenure at the FCC.

Adelstein is also personally acquainted with sparsely populated areas, having hailed from the Gateway to the Black Hills, near Mt. Rushmore, Evans Plunge, the Badlands and Wall Drug. His charge includes not only getting broadband into areas where few people live, but favoring those projects that support multiple providers, something many city dwellers don’t enjoy.

Appointed to the FCC in 2002, Adelstein’s second term would have ended in June. His exit leaves two seats open at the FCC, contingent upon Genachowski’s confirmation.

Genachowski would replace Kevin Martin, who left the FCC in January. A former Harvard classmate of the president’s, Genachowski also served as a staff member to former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and worked in Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp. He started his legal career clerking for Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and David Souter.

The general insider feedback on Genachowski is that he’s sharp, agreeable and lacking in the type of hubris that often grips individuals once they’re elevated to bureaucratic leadership positions in Washington. These qualities will mean little on Capitol Hill, where budget battles are fueling partisan sniping. Genachowski’s confirmation hearings will set the tone of his future interactions with Congress.

Meanwhile at the FCC, Michael Copps remains in charge as interim chairman, and Robert McDowell represents the lone Republican. McDowell, never a push-over on policy votes, got behind Copps when the veteran Democrat called for a thorough reform of the commission.

A third commissioner must be appointed before Adelstein vamooses so the agency can continue to run. John Eggerton, one of the last media trade reporters on K Street, has named names of potential nominees: Mignon Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn; Hilda Legg, former Republican administrator of the RUS (where Adelstein is going); and Meredith Baker of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the agency handing out DTV converter coupons. – Deborah D. McAdams