Technological and geographic heterogeneity in broadband markets: The challenge for regulation

When the telecommunications industry was liberalised in Europe and North America in the 1980s and 1990s, it inherited a legacy of monopoly providers whose footprint was national or multi-regional in its character. The regulatory framework, particularly that adopted in EU member states, reflected this pattern of relatively homogeneous deployment achieved, in part, by decades of cross-subsidised pricing and universal service goals. Perhaps because of this legacy, telecommunications regulators have often adopted the presumption that relevant markets are national in character, unless proven otherwise Although geographically-variegated regulatory remedies have been permitted (even in the face of allegedly national relevant markets) and adopted in many member states, many regulators have never done so, and overly cautious thresholds for permitting geographically based forbearance suggest a continued bias towards presuming national markets and remedies. We find that this presumption of uniformity and the tendency to aggregate geographic markets together is not supported by first principles of antitrust analysis, although there may have been strong practical reasons to apply this presumption in the past circumstances of the telecommunications and broadband industries. On the ground, however, there has arguably never been as much heterogeneity across geographies and across technological solutions that provide effective ultra-fast broadband speeds.


Technological and geographic heterogeneity in broadband markets: The challenge for regulation