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Thread: Verizon applauds FCC approval of Tracfone Acquisition

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    Verizon applauds FCC approval of Tracfone Acquisition

    https://www.globenewswire.com/news-r...quisition.html

    NEW YORK, Nov. 22, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The following statement is from Kathy Grillo, Verizon SVP & DGC, public policy and government affairs:

    “Verizon welcomes the FCC’s approval today of our TracFone acquisition. The deal will provide customers with the best of both worlds: more choices, better services and new features thanks to Verizon’s investment and innovation. Customers will benefit with enhancements in devices, network performance and innovative products and services -- as well as a continued commitment to Lifeline.

    “We thank Chairwoman Rosenworcel, the Commissioners, and the FCC staff for their leadership and commitment to the public interest.

    “We also want to thank the commissioners, ALJ and staff of the California Public Utilities Commission, as well as many community-based organizations that expressed support for this transaction.

    “We will work hard to serve TracFone’s current customers and look forward to serving new ones in this dynamic and fast-growing marketplace.”
    Tracfone rewards referral code LDGL-BB11 gives 8,000 points to new rewards members at rewards.tracfone.com or in the Tracfone App.

    Sign up for the TracFone rewards program here: https://www.tracfone.com/rewards

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    Here is the FCC approval document:

    https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachme...C-21-121A1.pdf


    Excerpt:


    1. In this Memorandum Opinion and Order, we approve, subject to conditions, the
    application of Verizon Communications Inc. (Verizon), América Móvil S.A.B. de C.V. (América Móvil),
    and TracFone Wireless, Inc. (TracFone) (together, the Applicants) for Commission consent to the transfer
    of control of TracFone’s international section 214 authorization from América Móvil to Verizon.


    2. As a result of the transaction, TracFone will become a direct subsidiary of Verizon.
    TracFone offers prepaid services to more than 20 million customers, including offering prepaid services
    to approximately 1.7 million Lifeline customers.1 The Applicants assert that the transaction will benefit
    underserved consumers by allowing Verizon and TracFone to better serve customers in the prepaid
    segment.2 The Applicants maintain that the transaction will deliver public interest benefits in the form of
    more choices, better service, and new features and devices, including 5G, to underserved communities
    and TracFone’s generally value-conscious customers


    3. Commission staff has conducted an exhaustive review of the record filings in this
    proceeding, including reviewing thousands of pages of pleadings, documents, and information request
    responses, as well as conducting a thorough economic analysis of the potential harms and benefits. Based
    on our extensive review and analysis of the record, we find that the proposed transaction has the potential
    to cause some public interest harms. In particular, TracFone is one of the most significant participants in
    the Lifeline program, and the evidence points to potential harm to TracFone’s Lifeline-eligible and other
    low-income customers, especially in geographic markets outside Verizon’s coverage area. In addition,
    Verizon, as a result of the transaction, may have an increased incentive to raise the costs of mobile virtual
    network operators (MVNOs) that compete directly against TracFone for Lifeline and other low-cost
    prepaid customers and for which Verizon is their wholesale provider.


    4. However, we adopt a number of demanding conditions herein to address these public
    interest harms and to ensure the realization of certain public interest benefits. These include strong
    conditions to protect low-income consumers from price increases and to ensure that TracFone remains a
    supportive Lifeline participant. Given the likelihood that any violation of these conditions would harm
    low-income consumers, we also require more than seven years of oversight. Finally, we create strong,
    independent enforcement mechanisms—including both an internal and an independent compliance officer
    who are empowered to proactively monitor conditions, ensure that low-income consumers are not being
    harmed, and facilitate consumer complaints about potential violations—particularly from Lifeline
    subscribers. We find that these and the other conditions imposed herein adequately address the concerns
    and potential harms identified in the record such that, considering that the transaction also will yield some
    benefits (in the form of lower marginal costs) for TracFone, on balance, we are able to find that the
    proposed transaction serves the public interest.


    5. Verizon has made certain commitments to ensure that this transaction will serve the
    public interest by addressing the potential public interest harms and helping to realize the asserted public
    interest benefits. We make these commitments conditions of our approval of the proposed transaction.
    We briefly summarize many of the major commitments here, which address Lifeline and low-income
    consumers, customer migration and transition, wholesale services, unlocking devices, compliance and
    reporting, and assumption of liability.


    6. Lifeline Commitments. Verizon commits to continue to offer TracFone’s Lifeline-
    supported services over the same service area where TracFone currently offers Lifeline service for a
    minimum of seven years following the close of the transaction. In addition, Verizon will offer a free,
    compatible device or SIM in certain circumstances where customers are being required to transition to
    Verizon’s network. Subject to certain specific limitations, Verizon will continue to offer and advertise
    existing Lifeline plans and will not add new co-pays to TracFone’s existing Lifeline plans offered at no
    cost to prepaid customers for at least three years. Within six months after the transaction closes, Verizon
    also will make available to existing and new Lifeline prepaid customers a 5G plan and will offer a range
    of cost-effective 5G devices to existing and new Lifeline customers. Verizon will also maintain a
    specified level of marketing and advertising expenditures for Lifeline and will establish and maintain a
    dedicated website with information about the Lifeline program and a dedicated customer service line for Lifeline customers.


    7. Customer Migration and Transition Commitments. For at least three years after the close
    of the transaction, Verizon will maintain TracFone’s existing MVNO agreements to serve customers
    outside Verizon’s network coverage (including Puerto Rico), and it will maintain existing TracFone rate
    plans for new and existing customers. During this period, in order to assist customers in the transition,
    Verizon will maintain an exclusive, toll-free customer service line; conduct outreach, advertise, and
    display all plans on a dedicated website; and separately notify all TracFone customers of the transaction.
    In addition, during this period, Verizon will notify customers at least twice before they are transitioned to
    Verizon’s network and, in certain circumstances, will provide a free compatible device in order to prevent
    interruption or degradation of service.


    8. Unlocking Devices Commitment. Subject to certain conditions and limitations, Verizon
    commits to extending its 60-day unlocking period to all 700 MHz C Block devices purchased from
    TracFone after closing and activated on the Verizon network, subject to a two-year waiver of the
    automatic unlocking requirement to allow manual unlocking for those TracFone devices that currently do
    not have automatic unlocking capabilities. Verizon will provide notice to affected TracFone customers of
    its unlocking policy.


    9. Wholesale Service Commitment. Verizon commits to provide MVNOs that have current
    contracts with Verizon an option to extend, subject to the limitations specified below, their existing
    MVNO wholesale agreements, on the same terms and conditions, on a month-to-month basis until three
    years after the transaction closes.


    10. Compliance and Reporting Commitments. For seven years and six months following the
    close of the transaction, Verizon commits to paying for and retaining both an internal company
    compliance officer and an independent compliance officer to ensure compliance with these commitments.
    For seven years, Verizon will also submit publicly available semi-annual reports describing its
    compliance that includes information regarding Lifeline and non-Lifeline customers.


    11. Assumption of Liability Commitments. Without prejudicing contractual indemnification
    rights between Verizon and América Móvil, Verizon assumes liability for any forfeitures, restitution, or
    other obligations that may be imposed by the Commission or the Universal Service Administrative
    Company (USAC) on TracFone and its subsidiaries, and any successors or assigns, unless such liability
    has been resolved by TracFone prior to the closing of the transaction. In addition, Verizon will comply
    with any agreements with the Commission or USAC, including following any compliance plans, or other
    obligations, agreed to by TracFone, its subsidiaries, or any successors or assigns.


    See Verizon commitments, starting on page 3 and 29.

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    So everyone worried about losing TF/ATT-TMO are good for at least 3 years. By then Verizon may have service in non-Vzw areas since they say "Customers will benefit with enhancements in network performance", which would mean building allot of new towers. Good luck with that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpz1 View Post
    So everyone worried about losing TF/ATT-TMO are good for at least 3 years.
    Not if Verizon claim they have coverage in that area. "For at least three years after the close of the transaction, Verizon will maintain TracFone’s existing MVNO agreements to serve customers outside Verizon’s network coverage (including Puerto Rico)...."

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    Quote Originally Posted by hpham View Post
    Not if Verizon claim they have coverage in that area. "For at least three years after the close of the transaction, Verizon will maintain TracFone’s existing MVNO agreements to serve customers outside Verizon’s network coverage (including Puerto Rico)...."
    Exactly....I read most of the fcc approval document and you are correct. As long as VZW claims they have coverage in an area it won't matter if the service is usable or not. It will be switch to VZW or else. Also if I understand it correctly Lifeline customers will be some of the first ones VZW targets on this.

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    Can people interpret the unlocking clause? It kinda seems like they are saying that TracFone devices should now be unlocked after 60 days like Verizon... But the subject to piece is confusing to me?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pitflyer View Post
    Can people interpret the unlocking clause? It kinda seems like they are saying that TracFone devices should now be unlocked after 60 days like Verizon... But the subject to piece is confusing to me?
    All I could understand was TF devices bought after the VZW acquisition would be eligible for unlocking after 60 days. I didn't understand the VZW unlocking policy for TF phones already in use that are locked.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hpham View Post
    Not if Verizon claim they have coverage in that area. "For at least three years after the close of the transaction, Verizon will maintain TracFone’s existing MVNO agreements to serve customers outside Verizon’s network coverage (including Puerto Rico)...."
    Thanks for pointing that wording out. Well, the FCC already admitted the carrier maps are bogus and coverage needs to be based on specific location not just a couple phones in a census district which are what the claims are based on now. Along with this agreement requiring a special FCC over site dept with a direct line, fingers crossed an argument can be made that Verizon service at your location sucks. I'm sure the FCC over site complaint hotlines will be working over time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NanaC View Post
    All I could understand was TF devices bought after the VZW acquisition would be eligible for unlocking after 60 days. I didn't understand the VZW unlocking policy for TF phones already in use that are locked.
    It says the 60day unlock for "700 MHz C Block devices." Is that what's called C-band? I don't think C-band or required phones are even working yet.
    Otherwise seems like the same current 12mo.

    Note it also says "Subject to certain conditions and limitations,". That's what I love about these agreements.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpz1 View Post
    It says the 60day unlock for "700 MHz C Block devices." Is that what's called C-band? I don't think C-band or required phones are even working yet.
    Otherwise seems like the same current 12mo.

    Note it also says "Subject to certain conditions and limitations,". That's what I love about these agreements.
    All I know is we're in trouble now. Loved the part about the transition help line for 1 year. After that it will probably be like Verizon prepaid, no live support, just a chatbot that sends you in circles without accomplishing anything.

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    1. The FCC will monitor Verizon and TracFone for a minimum of 7 years to endure they comply with all the demands the FCC make. The FCC also reserves the right to continuing to monitor Verizon and TracFone for more than 7 years if necessary.

    (So this clause ensures that the federal government will have regulating powers well beyond the agreed timeframe of the merger. That's good news as TF customers will have someone to complain to if Verizon try anything funny)

    2. Verizon must honor the Lifeline program for up to 7 years minimum. After that Verizon may open up negotiations about the program, but the FCC will retain the right to approve of or disprove of any negotiations Verizon tries to make after that period. Verizon will also not be permitted to increase prices on current plans nor introduce new fees or copays for Lifeline members. Verizon will be forced into giving a free phone or sim card when people are forced to Verizon service on areas where Verizon has service. Verizon is also forced to market these plans during this time frame.

    3. Verizon will be given at least 3 years to transfer customers to Verizon service only in areas where Verizon service is demonstrated not to disrupt a customers service. Verizon is forced to provide means to make transitions in areas where customers are able to transition. All of this must come at no cost of the consumer. Verizon must notify customers twice if they are eligible for a transition and continue to market current plans and services during this period.

    (Basically Verizon has 3 years to transfer people, however if someone lives in an area where Verizon has no service or Verizon service would be lower quality then the other service provider, then Verizon will have to maintain agreements with T Mobile and AT&T until they are able to expand service in that area.)

    4. Verizon will switch all TracFone customers to it's 60 day unlocking policy for all devices sold under TracFone. Verizon will also wave any device that has a two year unlocking policy currently under TracFone and allow all customers effected by the merger the ability to manually unlock their devices per Verizon's guidelines, not TracFones.

    (Basically, TracFones unlocking policy is getting replaced with Verizon's 60 day unlocking policy for all phones sold under TracFone.)

    5. MVNOs like AT&T and T Mobile will have the ability to extend their contracts on a month to month bases with TracFone up to 3 years after the deal finally closes through.

    (Given it may take Verizon up to 3 years to fully close the deal and transition everyone to Verizon, it's possible for people who aren't on Verizon to continue getting service through AT&T and T Mobile if AT&T and T Mobile chose to extend their contracts during this time frame)

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    Quote Originally Posted by pitflyer View Post
    Can people interpret the unlocking clause? It kinda seems like they are saying that TracFone devices should now be unlocked after 60 days like Verizon... But the subject to piece is confusing to me?
    "Unlocking Devices Commitment. Subject to certain conditions and limitations, Verizon commits to extending its 60-day unlocking period to all 700 MHz C Block devices purchased from TracFone after closing and activated on the Verizon network, subject to a two-year waiver of the
    automatic unlocking requirement to allow manual unlocking for those TracFone devices that currently do not have automatic unlocking capabilities".

    Here's my attempt at trying to interpret the above paragraph...The phones sold by some providers are automatically unlocked after a given number of days, you don't have to contact the company. I think that capability is built-in to the phone's firmware. Sounds like new phones sold by Verizon after closing the deal will have that capability. For phones currently in service, or phones already made and stocked by TF, which don't have that capability built-in, the automatic unlocking clause doesn't apply for two years (to deplete that stockpile), and you'll still need to contact TF to have the phone manually unlocked (by giving you a code to enter, or doing it over-the-air).

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpz1 View Post
    It says the 60day unlock for "700 MHz C Block devices." Is that what's called C-band? I don't think C-band or required phones are even working yet.
    Otherwise seems like the same current 12mo.

    Note it also says "Subject to certain conditions and limitations,". That's what I love about these agreements.
    700 MHz C Block refers to LTE band 13 which Verizon acquired in 2008. Every Verizon and TracFone Verizon LTE phone sold in at least the last 8 years supports band 13. 700 MHz C Block is unrelated to C-Band.

    Back in 2008, when the FCC auctioned off the 700 Mhz C block they required Verizon to adhere to a number of conditions including:
    Allow customers to use any compatible device on the 700 Mhz C Block.
    Sell all 700 MHz C Block devices unlocked.

    Verizon broke both conditions.
    They never allowed non-whitelisted devices to be activated directly, although most will work with a SIM activated with a whitelisted device's IMEI.
    They initially sold unlocked phones but after several years started requiring 60 days of postpaid or 3 - 12 months of prepaid service before a phone could be unlocked.

    I hope they will start allowing Tracfone's to be unlocked after 60 days as promised but their history of not honoring similar agreements worries me.
    Last edited by Yeswap; 11-22-2021 at 09:55 PM.
    Find and compare prepaid plans at https://prepaidcompare.net

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    The interpretations we make of the unlocking clause make sense to me but I agree if someone is going to weasel out of locking requirements it will be Verizon.

    I do not expect phones magically to unlock 60 days from now. Verizon Prepaid has been able to somehow get around those rules too so I am sure they will apply the same policies to TracFone aka the newest branch of Verizon. Though it was relatively recent that Visible started locking their phones and those only for 60 days so maybe TracFone will follow that model.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pitflyer View Post
    Though it was relatively recent that Visible started locking their phones and those only for 60 days....
    It appears that Visible only locks certain phones. In the last 2 weeks, I got two Moto G Pure Visible phones via swaps, and the Moto's came unlocked out-of-the-box. I've tested them with BYOP TF/AT&T SIMs and FreeUp SIM.

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