NATIONWIDE - The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today praised a coalition of 17 attorneys general, led by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, for urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to further investigate Verizon’s acquisition of TracFone. In a letter to the FCC, the attorneys general detailed how Verizon’s acquisition of TracFone could negatively impact the Lifeline program, which provides a subsidy for communications services to millions of low-income consumers.
“Verizon’s acquisition of TracFone as it stands today could harm millions of low-income families during a pandemic,” said Brian Thorn, Senior Researcher, CWA. “Now is certainly not the time to depend on the generosity of a corporation to continue providing communications services that millions of low-income Americans rely on. The FCC has a responsibility to step in and ask what Verizon will do to protect consumers from further consolidation of the wireless industry.”
TracFone is the largest provider of Lifeline services nationally, with approximately 1.7 million low-income subscribers in 43 states and the District of Columbia, or 22 percent of total Lifeline subscribers. By contrast, Verizon only offers its mobile wireless service to Lifeline customers in parts of four states. TracFone’s critical role in providing Lifeline services could be undermined if the transaction is approved without binding conditions.
In their letter to the FCC, the attorneys general wrote: “The potential for Verizon to pursue additional profits by reducing the access and/or quality of Lifeline services could shut out millions of low-income Americans from adequate communications services. Considering the fundamental role that cellular telephones play in accessing modern society and the modern economy, it is imperative that Lifeline services be protected and maintained if this transaction is approved.”
In December, CWA filed FCC comments on the proposed acquisition of TracFone demanding a commitment from Verizon to participate in the Lifeline program for a minimum of 5 years, guaranteeing that TracFone subscribers will not lose service when they need it most. CWA also demanded a commitment from Verizon to continue to market to, and provide customer services for Lifeline and prepaid customers, including non-English-speaking customers.
Joining Virginia Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.