Last Fall, Verizon announced plans to buy TracFone, the largest prepaid, no-contract wireless provider in the U.S. TracFone has around 21 million customers and is one of the largest providers of Lifeline, a federal telecommunications subsidy program that enables low-income households to obtain phone or wireless broadband services. TracFone has approximately 1.7 million low-income subscribers in 43 states and the District of Columbia. Public interest advocates have highlighted how Verizon’s acquisition could reduce access to affordable communications services for millions of Americans that rely on TracFone’s service options.

Considering the potential impact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should collect public input to determine whether the merger is in the public’s interest. In December 2020, Next Century Cities (NCC) supported joint comments with Public Knowledge, California Center for Rural Policy, Open Technology Institute, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and Tribal Digital Networks in comments explaining why authorization to streamline Verizon’s application was properly withheld. 

Separately, Ryan Johnston and Corian Zacher submitted comments on behalf of NCC urging the Commission to reject TracFone’s application based on concerns related to affordability and competition. Specifically, NCC’s comments detail how the proposed merger could impact on the Lifeline program and further erode competition in the market. Competition is essential for keeping prices low for the customers who rely on prepaid phone and Internet service. 

Most recently, NCC joined Public Knowledge, Access Humboldt, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and Open Technology Institute in a FCC filing that highlights the following points: 

  • The Verizon Tracfone merger represents a major transaction with the potential to shift the entire wireless market.
  • The Commission should open an official docket for the Verizon Tracfone merger to better enable public input on this major transaction.
  • Collecting more data from the parties is required to effectively review the proposed transaction and its impact on the public interest.

Click here to review the March 12th filing. Also, review the related post, Next Century Cities Raises Affordability and Competition Concerns Associated With the Verizon/TracFone Merger, from December 2020.