Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Cell Phone Service In For A Change?

Anyone that has spent any amount of time traveling through South Dakota knows that cell phone service is spotty at best. In my experience, the company with by far the best coverage in the state has to be Verizon, especially now that they have upgraded to their high speed EVDO network in several cities including Sioux Falls. With that said, news that the FCC has approved Verizon's request to buyout Alltel could spell big changes here in the great white north, also known as South Dakota.

Why you ask?

Part of the deal that Verizon struck in order to get approval from the DOJ and the FCC was that they had to divest assets in 100 areas in 22 states. One of those areas just so happens to be the whole state of South Dakota.
The Department of Justice said the divestitures were necessary to preserve wireless voice service competition in areas where Verizon and Alltel both already have significant footprints. In addition to divesting its assets throughout the whole of North Dakota and South Dakota, Verizon must also divest wireless businesses in areas of Midwestern states such as Ohio, Minnesota and Kansas; western states such as Arizona, Colorado and California; and Southern states such as Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

"The divestitures required are necessary to protect wireless consumers and are among the most extensive required by the department in a wireless case," said Thomas O. Barnett, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice's antitrust division.

Considering the deal was just approved last week, the details of any divestment of Verizon assets here are far from worked out. But if the Verizon sell off happens to include several smaller carriers, we could be living the old Verizon slogan of "can you here me now" with no one answering.

Is the DOJ's attempt to promote choice in service actually going to end up doing the opposite here? Time will tell but it quite possibly could depending on how the changes play out. Then again maybe Sprint will buy some of the assets so that their so called South Dakota "coverage map" actually becomes accurate for a change...

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