DOJ requires Verizon to divest for merger

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Verizon Communications must sell off portions of Unicel's mobile network in
order to complete its US$2.7 billion acquisition of the company, the U.S. Department
of Justice said Tuesday.

The DOJ will require Verizon to sell off Unicel's mobile phone infrastructure
in six geographic areas in Vermont, New York state and Washington state, including
Burlington, Vermont, the agency said. The DOJ's Antitrust Division filed a civil
lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asking
the court to block the proposed acquisition unless Verizon agrees to the DOJ's
recommendations. The DOJ also filed a proposed consent decree that would resolve
the issues.

The acquisition, as proposed, would have "substantially lessened competition
to the detriment of consumers of mobile wireless telecommunications services
in those areas, potentially resulting in higher prices, lower quality and reduced
network investments," the DOJ said in a news release.

Unicel's legal name is Rural Cellular. Rural Cellular is the 10th largest mobile
provider in the U.S., providing mobile service to nearly 790,000 subscribers
in 15 states, the DOJ said.

Verizon is the second largest mobile service provider in the U.S., based on
the number of subscribers. Verizon Wireless serves more than 65 million customers
in 49 states.

In the geographic areas covered in the DOJ complaint, Verizon and Rural Cellular
combined serve more than 60 percent of mobile subscribers, the DOJ said.

The acquisition also is subject to review by the U.S. Federal Communications
Commission. The state of Vermont joined the DOJ in the complaint and proposed
consent decree.

Verizon spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.

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