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Groups Call for FCC Denial of Verizon-Alltel Merger

Nearly two dozen entities on Monday pleaded with the FCC to deny the pending Verizon Communications Inc.-Alltel merger.

Opponents of the deal include Leap Wireless, the Organization for Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO), the Rural Independent Competitive Alliance (RICA), the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) and the Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG).

For Leap, much of the problem lies in roaming agreements. The merger, the MVNO said, will eliminate one of the few remaining independent sources for CDMA roaming. “In fact,” it wrote, “in most of these markets the transaction would reduce the number of CDMA providers from three to two or (even worse) two to one, or a literal monopoly in that market – proverbial examples of cases that warrant especially high antitrust scrutiny and divestiture. As for Verizon’s commitment to honor existing roaming agreements, it is a vow of faithfulness for all of one month (the effective term of many roaming agreements).”

OPASTCO and RICA also cited potential roaming problems for rural wireless carriers. Verizon’s newly increased market power could jeopardize the roaming rates those providers pay, the organizations said.

NTCA’s opposition stems largely from spectrum issues. A Verizon-Alltel pairing concentrates too much spectrum with one provider, the association said, “and will harm competition and competitive opportunities for small players in the wireless marketplace.”

Several other groups – Consumers Union, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge and others – protested the Verizon-Alltel merger because they said it doesn’t serve the public interest.

Aug. 11 marked the FCC deadline for comments on the transaction, which analysts expect will be approved before the end of the year.


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