Bernie Sanders Wants the Government to Take Over the Internet

Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is famous for calling himself a “democratic socialist.” The practical effect of that self-identification is that he wants the government to run things that currently are the purview of the private sector. Hence, he is in favor of a scheme called Medicare for All, a government-run healthcare system similar to those that exist in Canada and the UK. 

The Washington Examiner is reporting that Sanders would also like the government to take over the Internet. 

“The 2020 presidential candidate now wants to nationalize the internet. At least, that seems the inevitable result of his newly released campaign plan idealistically dubbed ‘High-Speed Internet for All.’ As is so often the case, Sanders identifies a real problem — in this case, it’s the fact that 1 in 4 people living in rural areas of the United States still lack access to broadband internet — and immediately jumps to full government control as the only solution. This is where he gets things completely wrong.

“The senator’s proposal would essentially have the federal government take control of the internet in almost Orwellian fashion. It explicitly calls for $150 billion in spending on a ‘publicly owned and democratically controlled, co-operative, or open-access broadband network.’”

Under a Sanders presidency, access to broadband internet would be as much a human right as access to health care. He would also break up the huge internet service companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google because he wants to weaken the influence of the private sector in providing broadband services.

The Examiner article notes that Sanders’ plan to nationalize the Internet is a solution in search of a problem. 98 percent of Americans have access to broadband Internet and that number is growing. Very soon, every American will be able to log in and enjoy access to information and communications that the Internet provides.

Indeed, the private sector has got this. SpaceX, for example, is busily deploying a constellation of thousands of satellites called Starlink that it says will provide cheap, reliable internet access to every corner of the globe. The goal is to provide the service for all of North American by 2020 and the rest of the world by 2021. SpaceX will use the fees that it charges access to its new network to finance its private space program, sending people and cargo to the moon and founding a settlement on Mars. Several other companies such as Amazon and Google are also planning similar satellite constellations.

The Examiner notes that far from easing the path to total internet coverage, the government has impeded it.

“Sanders’ plan ignores that government interference is part of what has slowed the private sector’s expansion of broadband internet into rural America in the first place. Heavy-handed regulations and compliance costs have made it even less profitable for companies to expand into these already less-densely populated, and thus less profitable, markets in rural counties.

“For instance, the unnecessary Obama-era internet regulation misleadingly dubbed “net neutrality” led to a massive decline in private sector broadband investment during the brief period while it was in place. According to the FCC, ‘In the following two years, after [net neutrality] was adopted, new deployments dropped 55 percent.’ But after its repeal, investment has ticked back up by a whopping $1.5 billion.”

According to Fox News. Sanders maintains that access to the Internet “costs too damn much/” He believes that the Internet should be treated like a public utility, the theory being that the government would run it without the need by private companies to make a profit. He would reinstitute net neutrality and prohibit data caps.

Naturally, some are not finding Sanders’ proposal to nationalize the Internet to be very attractive. The Competitive Enterprise Institute states, “People claiming high-speed Internet as a human right fail to appreciate the hard work and ingenuity of the entrepreneurs who’ve made it widely available a few years after it was only accessible to the richest people. The government should refrain from interfering in a market that is constantly expanding access to new consumers.”

Sanders, if he is anything, is not a “get out of the way and let the private sector take care of it” kind of guy. For one thing, projects like Starlink would make billionaires like SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos richer. He wants to make the poor poorer by taxing away all of their wealth. Thus, he favors a socialist solution for a problem that the private sector is already solving.

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