Senate Confirms Adelstein for FCC Post


The Senate Saturday confirmed Jonathan Adelstein for a five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission, where the South Dakota native is expected to advocate rural interests in upcoming policy debates and perhaps cast the deciding vote on a key digital-TV issue.

Adelstein, 42, was viewed by many as on his way out of the agency, but bipartisan support in the Senate revived his nomination in the waning moments of this Congress. Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) backed Adelstein, as did Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.). Senate Democrats on the committee also supported him.

Adelstein appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday, and the panel voted to recommend his reappointment the next day.

An Adelstein aide and a Senate Periodical Press Gallery aide said Monday that Adelstein gained Senate confirmation Saturday along with dozens of other White House nominees.

Because Adelstein’s term expired in July 2003, he was originally required to leave the agency when Congress adjourned this year.

Adelstein’s chances of remaining were further discounted when Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) -- for whom Adelstein worked from 1995-2001 -- lost his re-election bid to Republican John Thune Nov. 2.

Adelstein’s reappointment does not change control at the five-member agency, where Republicans hold a 3-2 edge.

Born in Rapid City, S.D., Adelstein graduated in 1985 from Stanford University, where he also received a graduate degree in history in 1986. He attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government from 1986-87.

He is married with two children and lives in Arlington, Va. He is a Comcast Corp. subscriber.

In the months ahead, the FCC will debate funding the universal-service program, which keeps phone rates affordable in rural areas, and the extent to which voice over Internet protocol needs to contribute to the program.

Adelstein could end up casting the decisive vote on whether cable companies will be required to carry every free digital-TV service provided by local TV stations. The current rule, supported by cable operators and programmers, requires carriage of a single service.

Adelstein and his staff have said that before he considers supporting a multicast-carriage mandate, he wants to understand the programming that broadcasters intend to air on the new channels.

On Nov. 8, the American Corn Growers Association met with Adelstein to endorse a multicasting-carriage mandate, saying that it would help the rollout of NBC Universal’s Weather Plus Network, a service designed to provide farmers and ranchers with access to vital information.

The ACGA said a multicasting-carriage requirement was necessary because NBC affiliates “owned by smaller groups or licensed to smaller markets” did not have the clout to negotiate access with cable operators.