Sanders calls to break up Comcast, Verizon

Sanders calls to break up Comcast, Verizon
© Greg Nash

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on 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 WarrenHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men 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 ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE