To gain antitrust approval of its $28.1 billion acquisition of Alltel, Verizon will be required to divest overlapping wireless assets in 100 markets in accordance with a consent decree announced by the Justice Department (DOJ) yesterday. Verizon, which anticipates FCC approval of the transaction soon, agreed voluntarily to the divestitures after meeting with DOJ officials. According to DOJ antitrust chief Thomas Barnett, the proposed divestitures “are necessary to protect wireless consumers and are among the most extensive ever required by the [DOJ] in a wireless case.” An antitrust complaint filed by the DOJ and by various state attorney generals in the U.S. District Court in Washington contends that Verizon and Alltel are primary competitors in 94 cellular market areas. To resolve competitive concerns in these areas, the proposed DOJ settlement requires Verizon to divest overlapping assets throughout the states of North and South Dakota in their entirety and within portions of 20 other states that include California, Colorado, Illinois and Ohio. The settlement also modifies certain consent decrees that pertain to the 1999 mergers of Bell Atlantic (Verizon’s predecessor-in-interest) and GTE and Bell Atlantic and Vodafone to allow Verizon to regain control of divested markets that were later purchased by Alltel and “where competition is now sufficiently robust.” As part of its draft merger order, the FCC is also requiring Verizon to divest assets in the markets covered by the DOJ consent decree as well as in five additional markets that consist of small rural counties in Iowa, Michigan and Tennessee.