If you were hoping the Federal Communications Commission would probe what Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders has called the "ridiculous" prices charged by Internet providers to consumers, don't hold your breath.
The agency's chairman, Tom Wheeler, said his agency lacks the kind of granular price data that Sanders and three other Democratic senators asked for in a letter they sent to the FCC last week.
In the letter, Sanders — along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Ed Markey (Mass.) and Al Franken (Minn.) said low competition and hard-to-understand fees were driving up the cost of Internet access for Americans.
"Lack of choice has resulted in huge price increases and often poor service," the senators wrote. "There are now de facto communications monopolies throughout the United States."
To address the issue, they asked the FCC to investigate how much cable and Internet services go for in various markets around the country and requested the agency break down the numbers by speed tier, state, provider and urban and rural categories.
But the FCC will have a problem giving the senators what they want. That's because the agency collects some data on cable pricing, but not at the level of granularity the senators asked for. And it doesn't collect any information whatsoever on broadband pricing.
"The commission made a decision before I got there not to include price questions" in its periodic surveys of Internet providers, Wheeler told reporters Thursday. "We're going to respond with the information we have."
The FCC publishes semi-annual reports on the state of Internet access in the United States based on that information, going over things like how many Americans have which speeds down to the census tract and county level. You can find the latest reports here.
Telecom policy analysts say that what the FCC might do is simply send one of these prepared reports to Congress rather than supply the raw data, which would be difficult and expensive to pass along (and not completely responsive to the senators' request, for that matter).
When I asked the FCC whether it would consider including price questions in its surveys in the future, the agency said simply that "no decisions have been made."