During a hearing Tuesday before the House Telecommunications and Internet subcommittee, lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle urged reforms to the FCC’s forbearance process, as committee members voiced support for a bill that would force the FCC to act on requests for forbearance instead of potentially allowing such requests to be “deemed granted” by force of law. Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) is a co-sponsor of pending legislation that would eliminate Section 10 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which provides an automatic grant of any request for forbearance from the FCC’s rules that is not acted on within 12 months of filing (or within 15 months if the FCC grants itself an extension of the original 12-month deadline). Critics have targeted the forbearance process for reform since a deadlocked FCC allowed a forbearance request by Verizon Communications to be “deemed granted” in March 2006. (Verizon’s petition, filed in December 2004, sought to lift FCC common carrier regulation of the company’s high-speed data services and facilities, and the DC Circuit upheld the default grant last year.) Warning that such a scenario could be repeated if the FCC is reduced to four members next year as a consequence of the upcoming presidential election, Representative Chip Pickering (R-MS said adoption of the pending bill could avert future grants by default, as he added that, during any period in which the FCC is left without a majority, “you could have some unintended circumstances of gaming the system.” Ranking subcommittee member Cliff Stearns (R-FL) further recommended that carriers petitioning for forbearance should be given a firm deadline by which they must file all supporting paperwork so that the FCC will not be forced to consider new evidence in the days immediately preceding the statutory deadline for acting on forbearance requests. Arguing that the FCC’s inability to act “should not result in the removal of statutory duties that may have taken Congress years . . . to enact,” Markey declared: “if there is a clear majority to support forbearance of specific obligations, then let’s have the FCC act in a timely fashion, with written justifications, to approve such forbearance.”