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Bernie Sanders wants FCC to probe broadband prices (but wait, is there an election coming?)

Senators send Tom Wheeler dreaded 'strongly worded letter'

A group of US Senators led by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders want the USA's broadband regulator FCC to investigate whether Americans are being overcharged for internet access.

In a letter (PDF) to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Sanders (I-VT), along with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), and Ed Markey (D-MA) ask that the watchdog looks into the monthly charges being issued by service providers.

In the missive, the Senators worry that the lack of competition amongst service providers is allowing cable and phone companies to raise the charges for service without any fear of losing business.

"With increasing concentration in the industry, there are now de facto telecommunications monopolies throughout the United States," they write.

"For example, just 37 per cent of Americans have more than one option for high-speed broadband providers."

The Senators are calling on the FCC to investigate how much Americans pay for broadband, based both on state and provider, as well as the split between prices paid by those in rural and urban parts of the country.

The letter goes on to suggest that an FCC probe would be particularly timely in light of the pending merger between Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable. Comcast was recently rebuffed by the FCC and FTC in its attempts to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45bn (£29.05bn).

"The Commission's collection of pricing information is critical to upholding its mission to protect consumers and promote competition, and to deploy broadband across America," the Senators wrote.

Sanders could be sending the letter to promote his Presidential campaign, though Franken, Warren, and Markey are all incumbent Senators who have not entered into the Democratic primaries, suggesting the matter is a genuine concern in the Senate and not just political grandstanding.

The FCC has yet to comment or respond to the letter. ®

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