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Attorney General Nessel Urges FCC to Protect Consumer Access to Affordable Communications Services

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined 16 other attorneys general in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make sure that it protects millions of Americans’ continued access to affordable communications services through its Lifeline program. The coalition requests that before considering approval, the FCC should obtain additional information on Verizon’s proposed acquisition of Tracfone – a prepaid no-contract mobile phone provider. The attorneys general stress that an unchecked acquisition continues an alarming trend of reducing competition in the telecommunications market and could significantly reduce access to affordable communications services. 

The Lifeline program is in place to provide low-income subscribers with a discount on monthly telephone, broadband internet or voice-broadband bundled services purchased from participating providers.   

"The telecommunications industry has become such an essential part of American life that any significant change to its corporate organization may have an immediate and direct impact on Michigan consumers,” Nessel said. “Ensuring access to this technology remains affordable for low-income individuals and families is an obligation we have as attorneys general, and we urge the FCC to put the interest of the American consumer before that of big business and request additional information before allowing this acquisition to happen.” 

The coalition urges the FCC to adopt specific conditions to this proposed acquisition such as obtaining a commitment from Verizon to provide Lifeline services to customers at an affordable rate with sufficient quality, or to provide service packages that are comparable or better than Tracfone’s existing lowest-cost Lifeline packages. 

The coalition also reminds the FCC that if this merger, which is to occur in an already concentrated market, results in a decrease in the number or quality of Lifeline services, it would be contrary to the public interest and have an adverse impact on consumers and the communications industry.  

Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington in submitting this letter.  

A copy of the comment letter is available here