-Five Democratic U.S. senators on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ensure Verizon’s proposed $6.9 billion acquisition of pre-paid mobile phones provider TracFone does not raise prices or impact government programs to provide access to mobile phones for low-income Americans.
TracFone is one of the largest providers of telecommunications services under the government subsidy program known as Lifeline with 1.7 million low-income subscribers in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
Senators Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse, Dianne Feinstein, Ron Wyden and Ed Markey said in a letter “Verizon would have significant incentives and opportunities to push subscribers from Lifeline and inexpensive prepaid services to higher revenue plans.”
Verizon said in September it would buy TracFone, a unit of Mexican telecom company America Movil, in a cash and stock deal.
The company said the proposed deal “will bring value and benefits to value-conscious consumers in a myriad of ways.”
In February, the attorneys general of 16 U.S. states and the District of Columbia urged the FCC to thoroughly investigate the deal.
TracFone serves about 21 million customers. Verizon is the largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers.
Lifeline in total provides 9.1 million Americans with free or discounted broadband and voice services through its agreements with phone and broadband providers.
“We are concerned that Verizon does not have a sufficient record on supporting Lifeline for its current wireless services and has provided few enforceable commitments to the FCC within the proposed TracFone transaction,” wrote the senators to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We encourage the FCC to consider long-term, binding commitments to protect Lifeline subscribers and ensure affordable services.”
Verizon noted it has “committed to the Lifeline program for at least three years.” The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.