WASHINGTON, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal
Communications Commission said on Monday it has approved Verizon
Communications Inc's more than $6 billion acquisition of
pre-paid mobile phones provider TracFone Wireless with
conditions to protect low-income consumers.
The FCC's announcement followed the California Public
Utilities Commission's approval of the deal last Thursday after
Verizon agreed to additional consumer-protection conditions.
Verizon is the largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers.
TracFone, a unit of Mexican telecom company America Movil
, serves more than 20 million customers.
Verizon said in September 2020 it would buy TracFone in a
$6.25 billion cash and stock deal with up to $650 million in
potential additional future payments.
FCC approval should allow the deal to close as soon as
The FCC said required conditions will protect low-income
consumers from price increases and require the company to
continue to participate in a low-income telecommunications
subsidy program called Lifeline. The agency will require an
internal and an independent compliance officer "empowered to
proactively monitor conditions, ensure that low-income consumers
are not being harmed, and facilitate consumer complaints about
Verizon welcomed the FCC's approval, saying the deal would
"provide customers with the best of both worlds: more choices,
better services and new features."
The deal was approved by the Justice Department last year.
Under the California agreement, TracFone or Verizon must
participate in Lifeline for 20 years.
TracFone is one of the largest providers in the Lifeline
program, with 1.7 million low-income subscribers in 43 states
and the District of Columbia.
Verizon said it has committed to participate in Lifeline for
at least seven years and will offer existing TracFone Lifeline
rate plans for at least three years.
Lifeline in total provides 9.1 million Americans with free
or discounted broadband and voice services.
Democratic U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon
Whitehouse, Dianne Feinstein, Ron Wyden and Edward Markey said
the "FCCs binding conditions on Verizons acquisition of
TracFone can have real-life benefits for consumers if theyre
vigorously followed and enforced."
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall,
Will Dunham and Mark Porter)