A Senate panel gave its seal of approval Tuesday to a controversial nominee up for a seat on the five-member board of the Federal Communications Commission.

Jonathan S. Adelstein, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., since 1995, promised to work on telecommunications issues affecting rural America. He said he would advocate universal service and greater rural access to high-speed Internet service, or broadband.

"Broadband is the top priority, I think, in the [1996] Telecommunications Act. You can't deploy broadband fast enough," Adelstein told the Senate Commerce Committee.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said flaws in the 1996 Telecommunications Act had reached crisis proportion because they had discouraged both expansion of broadband services and investment in such an endeavor.

Adelstein said the act gives the FCC the necessary tools to work on broadband growth.

Adelstein had been nominated by Daschle eight months ago, but his nomination had been blocked in March by Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., after Lott's friend, U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering, lost his bid to be on the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lott denied that Pickering's defeat had anything to do with his blocking the nomination, saying instead that Adelstein, 40, was too young and inexperienced to serve on the five-member commission.  

In June, Lott and Daschle negotiated a compromise that would allow Adelstein's nomination to go through in exchange for the quick confirmation of several of President Bush's judicial nominations. As a result, Bush forwarded Adelstein's nomination to the Senate on July 10.

During Tuesday's hearing, committee members on both sides of the aisle said they were pleased that the hearing for Adelstein had finally occurred.

"I am pleased we have reached this day. The commission desperately needs you," Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D- N.D., said. 

"I look forward to working with you and we need you in a chair down there," Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mon., said.

Adelstein's nomination must now go to the Senate for a full vote, where he is likely to be confirmed.