FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327
PUC announces AT&T's acquisition of Alltel in South Dakota
PIERRE, S.D. – The Federal Communications Commission notified the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission today that it has approved AT&T's acquisition of former Alltel assets in South Dakota.
Today's action culminates a process that began in June 2008 when Verizon Wireless announced its plans to purchase Alltel. Antitrust concerns by the Department of Justice resulted in Verizon Wireless agreeing to divest assets in markets in which Verizon Wireless and Alltel both operate, including South Dakota. In May 2009, AT&T announced it would acquire the Alltel assets in South Dakota, including spectrum, towers and subscribers, from Verizon Wireless.
The business transaction makes way for AT&T to begin transitioning their newly-acquired South Dakota network from CDMA to GSM, which are different technologies that allow the wireless transfer of information. Alltel uses CDMA; AT&T uses GSM. AT&T officials have relayed to the PUC they expect the transition to gradually take place over the next year.
"This is big news for South Dakota," said PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "The PUC has had an eye, an ear, and when appropriate, a voice in this process for more than two years. Dependable wireless service has become a commodity many South Dakotans rely on in their daily lives. We focused our efforts on ensuring South Dakota moves forward in the wireless arena," he said.
The PUC filed comments with the FCC addressing AT&T's intentions regarding the Universal Service Fund; the buildout to unserved and underserved areas in the state; the transition of Alltel subscribers to the GSM network; and the availability of roaming. Kolbeck had ex parte discussions with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and key FCC staff during which he stated support for the federal agency's approval of the transaction.
PUC representatives also met with AT&T officials throughout the process to advocate on behalf of South Dakota customers. "It was important to us to know how AT&T plans to handle the relationship with current Alltel customers," stated PUC Chairman Dusty Johnson. "We asked key questions, and received assurances, about communication with subscribers and the timeline for installation of GSM equipment once approval was achieved," he said.
The PUC will continue its advocacy for South Dakotans as AT&T ramps up its presence in the state. "We will continue to be watch dogs, and barking dogs if necessary, to ensure the needs of South Dakota wireless customers are met," said PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has a list of frequently asked questions to help Alltel customers in the state better understand some of the issues related to the sale of Alltel assets to AT&T. The information is posted on the commission's Web site at www.PUC.SD.gov/Alltel-ATT . It addresses consumer concerns such as equipment, technology and coverage.
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