WASHINGTON — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter on Friday accusing big cable companies of using monopoly powers to muscle consumers into paying higher prices.
In the letter, addressed to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, Sanders and Warren wrote that mega-mergers have left over 60 percent of Americans with no choice whatsoever when it comes to their cable and Internet providers. This state of things, they wrote, makes it possible for companies to jack up prices without losing customers to competition. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also signed the letter.
“As the telecommunications industry becomes increasingly concentrated, this lack of choice has resulted in huge price increases and often poor service for consumers,” the senators wrote. “There are now de facto telecommunications monopolies throughout the United States.”
The letter noted that a new merger between Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications would only exacerbate the problem, saying that recent Time Warner price increases suggest the cable giant is already insulated from normal market pressures. Modem rental charges for Time Warner have jumped 203 percent since they were introduced in 2012, according to the letter. The FCC has the power to block the TWC-Charter deal.
“Given the lack of incentive for companies to provide better quality service and competitive prices, it is no surprise that individuals rank cable and Internet providers last in customer satisfaction when compared to other companies in other industries,” the senators wrote.
Sanders and his colleagues asked for the FCC to publish a host of cable and broadband pricing data, so consumers could see how much they pay compared to customers in other areas. They asked the FCC to provide average prices for each state and each cable provider, and also asked the agency to publicize the average prices in urban areas compared to those in rural markets.
Read the full letter here.