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Sanders calls to break up Comcast, Verizon

Sanders calls to break up Comcast, Verizon
© Greg Nash

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care MORE (I-Vt.) is calling to break up the largest internet and cable companies in the country, a proposal that would limit the power of corporations like Comcast and Verizon.

In a sweeping "High-Speed Internet for All" plan released Thursday night, Sanders accused the massive internet service providers of exploiting their dominance to "gouge customers and lobby government at all levels."

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His proposal emerges weeks after Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (D-Mass.), another top presidential contender, released her own plan to expand internet access in rural areas, often the parts of the country with the worst coverage.

Warren's plan did not specifically call to break up Comcast and Verizon, though it offered proposals that would pare down internet service providers' power and prohibit their "sneaky maneuvers" to "unfairly squeeze out competition."

In his plan, Sanders called out Verizon, Comcast and AT&T specifically over their billions of dollars in profits.

"With no incentive to innovate or invest, these conglomerates charge sky-high internet prices to reap profits from consumers, and they collect government subsidies to provide service to rural households while still leaving millions of Americans unconnected," Sanders wrote.

Sanders said he would use existing antitrust laws to take on the cable giants and break them up. Though he did not specify which companies he would take on, there are only a handful of top internet and cable companies in the country, including Comcast and Verizon. 

Sanders’s plan would also distribute $150 billion to local and state governments to build publicly owned broadband networks and override the state laws that limit local governments from running their own internet services.

"Bernie believes it’s time to stop relying on profit-focused corporations to get to universal broadband," the plan reads. "Bernie will provide the necessary funding for states, cities, and co-ops to build out their own broadband networks, and ensure all households are connected by the end of his first term." 

It would require companies to provide high-speed internet at affordable prices while seeking to bridge the divide between people in rural areas — who often lack access to the Internet or have spotty coverage — and those in cities. 

Several candidates have emerged with plans to tackle the so-called digital divide over the past several months, including Warren, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE