On Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) announced a new plan aimed at expanding broadband internet access across the country and dismantling what he referred to as “internet and cable monopolies.”
In his sweeping “High-Speed Internet for All” proposal, Sanders calls for broadband to be considered a public utility, much like electricity, and calls access “a basic human right.” The plan would provide $150 billion in grants and technical assistance to states and communities for the purpose of building out their own “democratically controlled, co-operative, or open access broadband networks.”
As part of the new plan, Sanders defines “broadband” as 100 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up, which is significantly higher than the Federal Communications Commission standard of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. If elected president, Sanders said he would also work to restore net neutrality and ban internet and cable companies from instituting data caps and throttling consumer access to the internet.
Sanders’ plan also outlines a broader antitrust effort against internet and cable companies. If elected, he would use existing antitrust law to “bar service providers from also providing content and unwind anticompetitive vertical conglomerates.” This policy could potentially impact every major US carrier, particularly Comcast’s ownership of NBCUniversal, AT&T’s ownership of WarnerMedia, and Verizon’s ownership of AOL.
“We will break these monopolies up and closely regulate them to ensure they are providing consumers with acceptable service, and eliminate hidden fees, surprise bills, and other consumer-gouging practices,” Sanders said.
Sanders is just the latest 2020 Democratic primary contender to put out a plan to expand broadband access. In August, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed an $85 million grant program to increase internet access for rural communities and Sound Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg put out his own $80 billion plan. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal also includes a pledge to make internet service universal.
“Access to the internet is a necessity in today’s economy, and it should be available for all,” Sanders said.
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