Common Cause, CWA, and Over 20 Organizations File Letter Outlining Public Interest Harms With Proposed Verizon/TracFone Merger

Yesterday, Common Cause and the Communications Workers of America along with over 20 other public interest and civil rights organizations, filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission 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.

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.

Statement of Yosef Getachew, Common Cause Media and Democracy Program Director

“The proposed Verizon-TracFone merger, as currently structured, is a bad deal that would have significant consequences for current Lifeline subscribers and low-income consumers seeking affordable services in the wireless market. Verizon’s lack of detail toward its plans for meaningfully participating in the Lifeline program indicates that TracFone’s existing Lifeline customers could experience a substantial loss of service post-transaction. Price sensitive consumers who rely on independent resellers for affordable coverage could also experience higher prices and fewer choices for service if the merger is approved.

“Our democracy depends on all households having access to robust and affordable broadband services to fully participate in a 21st century society. 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.

Statement of Brian Thorn, Senior Researcher, Communications Workers of America

“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. 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.”


To read the full letter, click here.