Verizon to sell Unicel assets in Vermont

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(Host) Verizon Wireless completed its purchase of the Unicel mobile telephone network last week. But that’s not the end of the story in Vermont and New York.

Verizon and Unicel have been fierce competitors in this region. To maintain the competition, regulators say Verizon has to sell Unicel’s assets here and in Washington state.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sneyd) In the rest of the country, Unicel customers automatically became Verizon subscribers when the sale closed.

Not here. The Federal Communications Commission says Verizon can’t have a monopoly on mobile phone service.

So a "trust” has been established to run the Unicel business in Vermont and upstate New York until Verizon can sell it. Tom McLaughlin is in charge for now.

(McLaughlin) “You’ll notice no difference today. And during the course of the trust we’re going to continue to add cell sites. So that you’re actually going to find you’ll have more places where you can press `send’ and make a quality call.”

(Sneyd) The 140,000 Unicel customers in Vermont and New York will continue to have Unicel phones.

And they’ll continue to pay their bills to Unicel.

But what about six months from now, when the FCC says Verizon has to sell what’s left of Unicel?

No one at Verizon or Unicel will say what’s going to happen.

A lot of attention has been paid to AT&T’s wireless division because it doesn’t operate in Vermont. That’s made it difficult to get an iPhone.

Previously, when Verizon Wireless bought Cellular One, regulators said parts of the company had to be sold to preserve competition. AT&T bought those assets.

But for now, no one at AT&T is talking either.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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