A group of liberal lawmakers, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders will 'absolutely' work with Trump to lower prescription drug costs Sanders says he will introduce 'Medicare for all' bill Sunday shows preview: Aftermath of failed healthcare bill MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDems question potential Kushner real estate deal with Chinese firm Inspector general reviewing HHS decision to halt ObamaCare ads Warren: 'Today is a great day... but I'm not doing a touchdown dance' MORE (D-Mass.), want the administration to dig into the "ridiculous prices" they say Americans are paying for cable and the Internet.
The two, joined by Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs MORE (D-Mass) and Al FrankenAl FrankenFriends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Lawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day Franken challenges witness endorsement of Gorsuch MORE (D-Minn.), sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler suggesting that because of limited options for consumers companies are able "to charge ridiculous prices and add hidden fees."
The senators said Wheeler's agency is required to keep track of how much consumers pay and want him to hand over the information, including how much consumers pay for cable and Internet on average by state and by company, as well as how much rural Americans pay versus urban Americans.
The letter comes as the agency this week announced its review team for the proposed merger of Charter, Time-Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. If the merger is successful, the FCC says it will represent the second-largest broadband Internet provider in the country and the third-largest cable provider.
The senators pointed to the merger as a reason to put "urgency" behind their request, adding that with increasing mergers "there are now de facto telecommunications monopolies throughout the United States."
Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a separate statement that “Americans deserve affordable access to the Internet, not hidden fees and rising prices," adding that he hopes Wheeler "will take action and continue to defend American consumers.”
The FCC declined to comment on the letter.
The issue of the FCC’s authority over Internet pricing is contentious. The business community and conservative lawmakers have said they think that the commission’s new net neutrality rules open the door to rate regulation. They say that by regulating broadband providers like utilities, the FCC can now seek approval over how much companies charge consumers for Internet access.
Wheeler has insisted that won’t be the case.
"Broadband providers will be able to adjust retail rates without Commission approval and without having to wait even a minute," the FCC said in a fact sheet about the net neutrality order.
— David McCabe contributed. This story was updated at 11:53 a.m.