On Thursday, Verizon announced a series of new public commitments to protect low-income consumers in connection with its proposed acquisition of Tracfone. The commitments are part of an agreement with public interest groups and communications workers’ associations that have agreed to support the acquisition on the basis of today’s announcement.
Verizon will continue to provide Tracfonen Lifeline support programs for at least three years after the end of the merger. Verizon also promises to offer a supported 5G program to low-income Tracfone users. According to Communication Workers of America (CWA), more than 1.7 million Tracfone customers are dependent on the Lifeline program.
CWA, Public Knowledge, and the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society had initially criticized Verizon’s proposed acquisition of Tracfone, suggesting that the deal could harm Tracfone’s low-income customer base. However, the groups announced on Thursday that they would withdraw from the opposition due to new concessions.
“These commitments ensure that TracFone customers can continue to use the Lifeline program, an important program for millions of families,” CWA senior researcher Brian Thorn said Thursday. “Today’s success would not have been possible without the support of the Allies and the FCC, which is interested in protecting the interests of customers from companies.”
Last September, Verizon announced plans to buy Tracfone for more than $ 6 million in the deal. The acquisition would give Verizon more than 20 million new subscribers and a tighter understanding of the low-income wireless and high-end phone market. Verizon plans to terminate the agreement before the end of the year, even though the current state of the Federal Communications Commission’s merger review is unknown.
Earlier this year, several Senate Democrats called on the FCC to add similar terms to Verizon’s proposed merger to protect low-income subscribers. On Thursday, e.g. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ed Markey (D-MA) congratulated the new terms.
“These commitments should now be the floor and starting point for the FCC’s review of the acquisition and negotiations with Verizon,” the senators wrote. “As important as the terms of the commitments are, they must be made legally binding, closely monitored and vigorously monitored to ensure that the company delivers on those promises.”