Reps. Dingell and Markey Introduce Bill to End Deemed Granting of FCC Forbearance Petitions

October 22, 2007. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced HR 3914 [LOC | WW], the "Proper Forbearance Procedures Act of 2007", a bill to remove the "deemed granted" clause from the forbearance petition section of the Communications Act.

Rep. John DingellRep. Dingell (at left), the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee (HCC), stated in a release that "This legislation aims to correct a significant procedural problem caused by the two small words `deemed granted´ in the Communications Act ... Carriers are still free to seek forbearance, and the FCC may still grant forbearance where appropriate. But the `deemed granted´ language must be removed to safeguard the ability of Congress and the courts to conduct appropriate oversight, to protect consumers, and to restore transparency to the decision-making process."

Rep. Markey, the Chairman of the HCC's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, stated in the same release that "The sweeping nature of the overall authority, coupled with the ability of petitioners to file late-breaking amendments or clarifications to their requests, renders the so-called `deemed granted´ provision utterly unworkable and unfair. The right to usurp authority contained in statutes duly enacted by Congress through regulatory inaction is contrary to the public interest and this bill wisely removes this possibility."

Rep. Dingell and Rep. Markey did not mention in their release the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) deemed granting of a forbearance petition of Verizon last year, or any other deemed granted petition. See, FCC's March 21, 2006, release, and story titled "FCC Announces that Verizon Petition for Forbearance is Deemed Granted" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,334, March 22, 2006.

47 U.S.C. § 160(c) currently provides that "Any telecommunications carrier, or class of telecommunications carriers, may submit a petition to the Commission requesting that the Commission exercise the authority granted under this section with respect to that carrier or those carriers, or any service offered by that carrier or carriers. Any such petition shall be deemed granted if the Commission does not deny the petition for failure to meet the requirements for forbearance under subsection (a) of this section within one year after the Commission receives it, unless the one-year period is extended by the Commission. The Commission may extend the initial one-year period by an additional 90 days if the Commission finds that an extension is necessary to meet the requirements of subsection (a) of this section. The Commission may grant or deny a petition in whole or in part and shall explain its decision in writing." (Emphasis added.)

This bill would amend subsection 160(c) "by striking the second and third sentences and inserting the following: ‘‘The Commission shall grant or deny any such petition within one year after the Commission receives it, except that the Commission may extend the one-year period for an additional 90 days if the Commission finds that the extension is necessary to meet the requirements of subsection (a)."

The bill was referred to the HCC. Its other original cosponsors are Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). It has no Republican cosponsors.