Bernie Sanders unveiled a plan Friday to expand broadband internet access as part of a push to boost the economy and reduce corporate power over Americans.
In his sprawling "High-Speed Internet for All" proposal, the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate calls to treat internet like a public utility. His campaign argues that the internet should not be a "price gouging profit machine" for companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.
Sanders' plan would create $150 billion in grants and aid for local and state governments to build publicly owned broadband networks as part of the Green New Deal infrastructure initiative. The total would mark a massive increase over current funding for broadband development initiatives. The proposal would also break up what the campaign calls "internet service provider and cable monopolies," stop service providers from offering content and end what it calls "anticompetitive mergers."
Sanders and his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have pushed to boost high-speed internet access for rural and low-income Americans, saying it has become a necessity to succeed in school and business. The self-proclaimed democratic socialist has unveiled numerous plans to root out corporate influence as he runs near the top of a jammed primary field.
"Access to the internet is a necessity in today's economy, and it should be available for all. We are going to take on the greedy internet, telecom, and cable monopolies and put an end to their absurd prices gauging," Sanders said in a statement.
The plan would also require service providers to offer a "basic" broadband plan at an "affordable price." In addition, it would put $7.5 billion toward high-speed broadband in Native American communities and ensure that public housing residents have access to free broadband.
Several of Sanders' top Democratic competitors have called to pile more money into high-speed internet development. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg released plans to invest at least $80 billion into rural broadband, while former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed putting $20 billion into expanding rural internet access.
The candidates are jockeying for position in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states with major rural pockets that host the first two primary nominating contests in February.
In August, the Federal Communications Commission announced $4.9 billion in funding over the next decade for "maintaining, improving and expanding affordable rural broadband."
Spokespeople for Comcast, AT&T and Verizon did not immediately respond to requests to comment on Sanders' plan.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.
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