Labor, civil rights, and public interest groups call on the FCC to seek more information, Lifeline protections in Verizon-TracFone transaction

CWA, Common Cause along with over 20 other public interest and civil rights organizations, filed a letter with the FCC outlining the potential public interest harms with the proposed Verizon-TracFone merger. If approved, as currently structured, the merger would present significant public internet harms to Lifeline subscribers and competition in the wireless market, impacting the ability of low-income households to access critical communications services.

With approximately 1.7 million low-income subscribers, TracFone is one of the largest providers of Lifeline services, but Verizon has failed to provide any detailed information for how it plans to meaningfully participate in the Lifeline program post-transaction. The merger could also result in fewer choices and higher prices for wireless service, particularly for low-income consumers who rely on wireless resellers like TracFone for more affordable coverage and greater product variety to meet their connectivity needs.

“As a longtime advocate for a robust Lifeline program, CWA is concerned that the Verizon-TracFone transaction as currently structured does not protect the services that millions of low-income households rely on for connectivity,” said Brian Thorn, Senior Researcher at CWA. “CWA has repeatedly sounded the alarm when large non-union wireless companies attempt to consolidate, leading to higher prices and downward pressure on wages, to the detriment of consumers and workers.”

The letter urges the FCC, should it approve the merger, to impose strict enforceable conditions that will protect Lifeline customers and preserve the wireless reseller marketplace. The letter asks the FCC to issue a Request for Information to obtain information sufficient to make the necessary public interest determinations and provide answers to the questions that have been raised in the record.

“Our democracy depends on all households having access to robust and affordable broadband services to fully participate in a 21st century society,” said Yosef Getachew, Common Cause Media and Democracy Program Director. “There are no public interest benefits to a merger that would potentially price out our most marginalized communities from affordable communications services and widen the digital divide.

In a separate

PDF icon letter
Leadership Conference Verizon Letter
, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urged the FCC to issue an Information Request and to impose binding conditions that will protect Lifeline customers.

Links:

Labor, Civil rights, and public interest letter to FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel (FCC, Apr. 6, 2021)