Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Platform Competition and Access Regulation on the Internet

Posted by D. Daniel Sokol

Sue H. Mialon and Samiran Banerjee (both Emory) analyze Platform Competition and Access Regulation on the Internet.

ABSTRACT: We provide a new model of platform competition on the Internet and analyze the effect of last-mile access charges on market outcomes. Consumers subscribe to two vertically related platforms, an Internet service provider (ISP) and a content network platform (CNP), to reach content providers (CPs). CPs interact with consumers via CNPs. Local ISPs provide an essential input: the internet connection for consumers and the last-mile access for the CNPs. The effects of access regulation that lowers the ISPs' last-mile access charges depend on (i) how much consumers value the network services, (ii) how much an increase in the Internet price lowers CNPs' fees from CPs, and (iii) the elasticities of consumer demand for the Internet with respect to price and network externality. When consumers' valuation of the network services is very high, the market for Internet connection is fully covered and access regulation unambiguously improves welfare since it lowers the fees for CPs without affecting consumer demand. When consumers' valuation is very low, access regulation does not have any impact because ISPs optimally set the access charge at zero. When consumers' valuation is moderate and the CNPs' fee reduction in response to a higher Internet price is large, access regulation lowers not only the fees from CPs but also consumer Internet prices. Hence, the "seasaw principle" between consumer Internet price and access charge breaks down in this case, and access regulation unambiguously improves welfare for consumers and CPs. On the other hand, if CNPs' fee adjustment is minimal, access regulation induces a higher consumer internet price and the welfare implication of access regulation is ambiguous. Access regulation improves welfare in this case if consumer demand responds more to the change in network externality than the change in price.

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