FCC's O'Rielly: Title II Forbearance Is Really 'Fauxbearance'

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly has a new term for what he suggests is the hollow claim that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's network neutrality order includes broad forbearance (non-application) from Title II common carrier regs: Fauxbearance.

He said he felt he was compelled to respond. That followed the press conference earlier in the day by fellow Republican commissioner Ajit Pai taking aim at the order's forbearance, particularly the suggestion that it would include rate regulation, which Pai said is flatly false.

"The FCC fact sheet clearly states that the item leaves in place more than a dozen provisions that are central to common carrier regulation. With regulations ranging from rates to privacy to pole attachments copied and pasted onto broadband service, most of Title II will apply right out of the box, with more to come later," said O'Rielly in a statement. "Indeed, sections 201 and 202, by themselves, are so broad in scope that they could easily be used as a means to backfill all of the fauxbearance provided from other provisions."

O'Rielly shares Pai's concern at the order's inclusion of interconnections, and the possibility the FCC will use that authority to dictate the "physical connections" of their networks, including demanding interconnections. "Nowhere in the fact sheet does the FCC disavow its intent to do so, so I must consider that it is a real possibility," he said.

The FCC is scheduled to vote Feb. 26 on the chairman's proposal. Pai has already signaled he will dissent. O'Rielly will almost certainly follow suit.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.