Biden FCC Green Lights Yet More Telecom Consolidation With Verizon Tracfone Merger, according to Techdirt

From Techdirt:

For literally 30 years telecom regulators have, with the occasional rare exception, rubber stamped a steady parade of mergers, resulting in a consolidated, less competitive overall market. The end result of these decisions are everywhere, from terrible customer service and high prices, to routine apathy to consumer privacy and spotty overall telecom coverage. And while regulators occasionally affix merger conditions designed to limit these harms, these conditions are usually either pathetic (often because they’re volunteered by the companies themselves) or they’re just not enforced in any meaningful capacity (outside of the rare and laughable fine).

While there’s a bit more awareness and opposition to mindless mergermania coming from the left, when it comes to regulators and politicians, this obsession with embracing mergers and consolidation is bipartisan. This week, the Biden FCC announced it would be greenlighting Verizon’s $6 billion merger with Tracfone. Tracfone, currently owned by América Móvil, largely caters to low-income Americans. Consumer groups initially balked at the deal, arguing that Verizon’s long history of nickel-and-diming made it likely the company would inevitably nickel-and-dime those financially precarious users as well.

But Verizon, a company with a long history of not living up to merger promises, made some promises… and now the Biden FCC says it’s approving the deal. Verizon has promised to try and keep prices the same for a while, make 5G devices available to these users, continue participation in the FCC’s low-income Lifeline program for a while, and generally not be a predatory ass. All overseen by what the FCC calls “strong, independent, enforcement mechanisms”:

I’m sure the FCC thinks they’ve fixed the deal by extracting conditions. The problem is we’ve been through this rodeo before, and there are 40 years of history showing that these pinky swears are frequently meaningless.

Continue reading Biden FCC Green Lights Yet More Telecom Consolidation With Verizon Tracfone Merger on Techdirt

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