Jonathan S. Adelstein, who headed up the Rural Utilities Service during a time of major changes in the rural telecom industry, left his position as of September 15.
John Paladino, who has served as special assistant to Adelstein since 2009, has been designated acting administrator.
In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — Adelstein’s former boss – thanked Adelstein for his service.
“During his three years at USDA, he helped make significant investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and this work will strengthen rural America for decades to come,” said Vilsack.
In a reference to the broadband stimulus program, Vilsack noted that under Adelstein’s leadership, USDA expanded broadband access for nearly seven million Americans and 365,000 rural businesses and “strengthened rural telecommunications services.”
The broadband stimulus program built upon the decades-long RUS loan program, which provided small rural telcos with low-interest loans for telecommunications infrastructure. It was under Adelstein’s leadership that the RUS ended a longstanding approval process for equipment that could be used for infrastructure projects funded through the loan program.
The future of the loan program is uncertain, as it traditionally relied on a steady stream of Universal Service funding to small telcos to help ensure that loans would be paid back on time and in full. As the traditional voice-focused Universal Service program transitions to focus on broadband, regulators have not yet determined how funding to rural telcos would be awarded or how it would be funded. And steps already have been taken to limit payouts under the traditional program.
Vilsack’s statement also noted Adelstein’s achievements in other areas that the RUS administers – including upgrading electric lines, deploying smart grid technology, and providing grants and loans to modernize rural water and waste systems.