Verizon Withdraws Controversial Forbearance Request, Giving CLECs Breathing Room

Verizon Communications Inc. has withdrawn the controversial forbearance petition that could have given the operator regulatory relief in six major metro areas, a move that gives CLECs some breathing room.

The decision comes two-and-a-half years after the FCC denied Verizons first request for forbearance in Boston; New York; Pittsburgh; Providence, R.I.; and Virginia Beach, Va. It also mirrors an Aug. 20 maneuver by Qwest Communications International Inc. thats the day the Denver-based service provider withdrew its four-metro-area appeal. Now Verizon has followed suit, just as the FCC was gathering comment on how to address the pending Qwest and Verizon proceedings. Commissioners wanted to know if they should judge the requests using new market power” tests.

Neither company stood a great chance of securing forbearance under a Democrat-led FCC. Agency Chairman Julius Genachowski and his majority have been less eager than Kevin Martins FCC to waive providers regulatory obligations, such as pricing for competitors network access. Such reluctance has proved a coup for CLECs including XO Communications, Covad Communications Group (now MegaPath) and Sprint Nextel Corp., all of which have fought hard against the flood of forbearance petitions that began in early 2006 when the FCC automatically approved a Verizon forbearance plea.

Verizon and other incumbent carriers have spent the past few years arguing they face such intense competition from VoIP, wireless and cable rivals throughout the United States that they deserve freedom from some government oversight and obligations when it comes to CLECs network access. CLECs have charged their larger brethren with trying to stomp out competition by abusing the forbearance provision in the 1996 Telecom Act, the legislative act that jumpstarted the countrys communications competition.

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