PUC should speedily okay Verizon’s purchase of TracFone

A smart phone user with his device. (Photo: TK Studio, via Shutterstock)

With the continued struggles exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vitally important for consumers, especially historically underserved consumers and business communities to have access to reliable and affordable mobile services.

Representing the Latinx and Asian communities throughout the State, the California Hispanic and Asian Chambers of Commerce know full well that no-contract services, like those provided by TracFone, supply critical service access to: government services and assistance, distance learning, job searches and applications, and connectivity for minority business owners.

This process could extend until the Fall of 2021, jeopardizing the continuity of mobile service thousands of Californians,

Not to mention, and of chief importance, access to the critical service of LifeLine.

We have heard countless, heartbreaking stories from families and business owners struggling to keep up with the ever-changing life and business environment due to COVID-19. Sadly, we have seen so many of those challenges exacerbated by lack of access to reliable mobile services.

Also, the access to LifeLine services that TracFone provides cannot be ignored. A protracted review of this proposal could invariably impact our communities in an extremely negative way, and that is why we are urging a priority review by the CPUC.

Future low-income customers looking for cost-effective, no-contract mobile options will have the benefit of purchasing these devices and plans on a premier network.

LifeLine provides discounted cell phone access to low-income subscribers in California and across the country. By acquiring TracFone and its Lifeline service, Verizon will be able to bring LifeLine to a new network in California and thus bring competition for low-income subscribers.

In November of last year, the Federal Trade Commission and the US Department of Justice approved the transaction proposal for Verizon Wireless to purchase TracFone. While positive news, the approval process is now in the hands of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Unfortunately, without expedition, this process could extend until the Fall of 2021, jeopardizing the continuity of mobile service thousands of Californians, and hundreds of minority communities, have come to rely on.

We urge the CPUC to consider how a delay in this approval process could negatively impact our minority-owned businesses and communities of color, who can’t afford an interruption in any type of mobile service, whatsoever.

The CPUC has it within their power to remove administrative barriers and expedite review of this acquisition proposal. We believe that the needs of the minority communities and businesses we represent should be quickly addressed, and review of this proposal should be made a priority of the CPUC as soon as possible.

Time is of the essence, and we sincerely hope the CPUC will make note of this urgent matter before them.

Editor’s Note: Pat Fong Kushida is president and CEO of the California Asian Chamber of Commerce. Julian Canete is president & CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

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