A group of liberal lawmakers, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDo progressives prefer Trump to compromise? Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case In defense of share buybacks MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn defense of share buybacks Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo In Washington, the road almost never taken MORE (D-Mass.), want the administration to dig into the "ridiculous prices" they say Americans are paying for cable and the Internet.
The two, joined by Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyTeen advocates urge users to 'Log Off' in push for tech reform Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Instagram 'pausing' kid-targeted plan Warren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium MORE (D-Mass) and Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame MORE (D-Minn.), sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler suggesting that because of limited options for consumers companies are able "to charge ridiculous prices and add hidden fees."
“Many Americans have very few, if any, options when it comes to choosing their local cable and Internet provides," the senators said in a letter that was sent Thursday, but released on Friday. "As the telecommunications industry has become increasingly concentrated, this lack of choice has resulted in huge price increases and often poor services for customers."
The senators said Wheeler's agency is required to keep track of how much consumers pay and want him to hand over the information, including how much consumers pay for cable and Internet on average by state and by company, as well as how much rural Americans pay versus urban Americans.
The letter comes as the agency this week announced its review team for the proposed merger of Charter, Time-Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. If the merger is successful, the FCC says it will represent the second-largest broadband Internet provider in the country and the third-largest cable provider.
The senators pointed to the merger as a reason to put "urgency" behind their request, adding that with increasing mergers "there are now de facto telecommunications monopolies throughout the United States."
Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a separate statement that “Americans deserve affordable access to the Internet, not hidden fees and rising prices," adding that he hopes Wheeler "will take action and continue to defend American consumers.”
The FCC declined to comment on the letter.
The issue of the FCC’s authority over Internet pricing is contentious. The business community and conservative lawmakers have said they think that the commission’s new net neutrality rules open the door to rate regulation. They say that by regulating broadband providers like utilities, the FCC can now seek approval over how much companies charge consumers for Internet access.
Wheeler has insisted that won’t be the case.
"Broadband providers will be able to adjust retail rates without Commission approval and without having to wait even a minute," the FCC said in a fact sheet about the net neutrality order.
— David McCabe contributed. This story was updated at 11:53 a.m.