Sanders steps in to Verizon talks (Rutland Herald)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., has entered into discussions with Verizon Wireless about its proposed purchase of Unicel, the state's other dominant cell phone company.

Under a proposed agreement under review by the justice department and the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon Wireless would acquire cell provider Unicel.

To win approval, Verizon Wireless previously announced it would divest Unicel's assets and customers in a large part of the state to AT&T, which currently does not have a presence in the state.

Sanders has expressed concerns the transaction as proposed would not expand wireless service broadly or quickly enough.

"It is simply not acceptable that in the year 2008 tens of thousands of Vermonters have no cell phone service or inadequate service," Sanders said in a statement. "Without a strong wireless presence, it will be virtually impossible for those towns to attract businesses and create jobs."

He also said the lack of cell phone service and Internet connections can have a "very negative" impact upon education and public safety.

While Sanders said he could not divulge details of the discussions, he expressed satisfaction that the talks appeared to be moving in the right direction.

In addition to Verizon Wireless and AT&T, Sanders has been working with the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, the entity which might ultimately be responsible for implementing any agreement.