Trump Nominates Rural Utilities Service Chief

The American Cable Association is praising President Donald Trump's pick for the new head of the Rural Utilities Service, which, among other things, administers subsidies to build out broadband in rural areas, an avowed priority for the Trump Administration.

The President has signaled his intent to nominate Kenneth Johnson, general manager and CEO of Co-Mo electric Cooperative in Tipton Mo.

RUS was charged with administering Stimulus Act broadband subsidies, but wound up catching a lot of flack for how that was handled, or mishandled, as many alleged--while it was to have connected millions with billions in funding, the number was in the low hundred thousands.

"ACA is very pleased that President Donald J. Trump has decided to rely on Kenneth Johnson to run RUS, an agency which is deeply involved in supporting the deployment of broadband infrastructure in some of the most rural areas of the country," said ACA President Matthew Polka. "Kenneth's work history demonstrates he is fully aware of the special conditions and often difficult economics that challenge private sector investment in a capital-intensive business like the laying and stringing of wireline facilities across hundreds of miles of sparsely populated regions. ACA's urges the Senate to confirm quickly Mr. Johnson's nomination."

Related: Sens. Ask USDA to Boost Broadband Speed Benchmark

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (RUS is under the USDA) said of the pick: "[Johnson's] experience with rural utilities, including real success in expanding access to high-speed Internet, will serve us well as we strive to increase prosperity across rural America."

But while broadband speeds are increasing, the speed of the Congress' confirmations of his nominees has more resembled dial-up, a point Perdue alluded to. "I’d like to take this opportunity to urge the U.S. Senate to take up key nominations we have pending, so we can add to our team and continue our mission," he said.

NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, also welcomed the appointment. "While much progress has been made in deploying broadband-capable networks, much work remains to be done – and we must also sustain those networks already in place for the benefit of rural consumers and communities," the group said. "Given Mr. Johnson’s rural industry experience, we are eager to work with him on these efforts and to ensure continued efficient and coordinated use of resources across the various RUS programs and the many other federal initiatives aimed at both promoting and sustaining rural broadband."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.