In an action that, in the words of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, is intended to “greatly reduce the procedural gamesmanship that we’ve too often seen in the forbearance proceedings of the past,” the FCC announced changes to its rules on Monday that govern the Section 10 forbearance process. Adopted unanimously late last week, the agency’s ruling was applauded by competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) Covad Communications, XO Communications, PAETEC Holding Corp. and Cavalier Telephone, which, in a joint statement, asserted that the order “creates fairer, more rational procedures for consideration of forbearance requests, while deterring the misuse of the process by the incumbents.” To promote clarity, the new rules require forbearance petitions to be complete as filed and to specify each statutory provision or rule for which a waiver is requested as well as each carrier, group of carriers, service, and geographic location for which forbearance is sought. In addition to identifying “any other factor, condition or limitation relevant to determining the scope of the requested relief,” petitioners will also be required to bear the full burden of proof both in terms of production and persuasion. Noting that incumbents’ tactics of withdrawing petitions that appear headed for denial in the late stages of a proceeding “distort the Commission’s jurisprudence,” the agency said it will now forbid petitioners to withdraw their requests more than ten business days after the reply comment deadline and will also impose a “quiet period” during the 14-day period preceding the FCC’s action deadline when comments would no longer be accepted. To make the process more transparent for all affected parties, the FCC also said it would post on its website timelines that detail the stages of forbearance review and that also include docket numbers, contact information, and a link to the agency’s electronic comment filing system. An officer of CLEC TW Telecom praised the FCC’s order as “a giant step toward the kind of real change we’ve sought from the FCC for years.”