Sanders calls to break up Comcast, Verizon

Sanders calls to break up Comcast, Verizon
© Greg Nash

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll Warren calls for Brazil to drop charges against Glenn Greenwald 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 Ann WarrenHarris weighing Biden endorsement: report Biden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll 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 ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll Trump to hold rally on eve of New Hampshire primary MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE