Monday, December 10, 2007

Vermont Throws a Wireless Curve Ball

The deal for Verizon Wireless to buy Unicel (Rural Cellular Corp.) has hit a snag. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders asked the FCC to completely block the deal and so far has at least influenced the FCC to delay the decision for 90 days. This is quite different than previous wireless deals that all seemed to get rubber-stamped by the FCC and other fed departments.

At issue in Vermont are things that we all are concerned about: universal service, new cell sites and reasonable prices. Sanders, with the backing of both business and consumer groups, does not believe Verizon will be as good a provider as Unicel. FCC observers think this might alter the course of future takeovers as well.

But Verizon isn't the only player here. Last week, AT&T agreed to swap licenses as well as some new customers and equipment with Verizon as part of the Unicel deal. AT&T would take over some of Unicel's Vermont licenses as well as all of their Burlington, VT customers and network. In return Verizon would get a few licenses and sites in other areas of the country. Wow, AT&T and Verizon agree on something?

The Vermont Senator says no. He prefers things the way they are. This deal has already changed direction to satisfy local and Washington concerns, but seems headed for yet another fork in the road.

This leaves Unicel customers across the country in a state of limbo. It may also affect a few Verizon Wireless or AT&T (ex-Dobson) customers who probably don't know what's coming. For those Unicel customers who have contacted us wondering what to do, hold on. If you like your service now, this squabble may keep the service you love going a bit longer. While we assume the deal will go through as expected in other parts of the country, Vermont customers may get something different...potentially better. What that may be, time will tell. If you jump ship too early, you might lose out on something good. Isn't it nice to be fought over?


Anonymous said...

This is very bad news for Vermonters who have been looking forward to having an iPhone (with AT&T service, after Verizon takes over Unicel and swaps GSM assets with AT&T ...).

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, att always had partner service but it will be nice to give my Iphone an 802 number.