Full vs. Light-Handed Regulation of a Network Industry
The access pricing problem emerges when a vertically integrated firm (the incumbent) provides an essential service in the upstream market, to an entrant. Both firms produce a final service and compete in the downstream market. The standard treatment of this problem has been to add the access price to the list of instruments available to a regulator who maximizes a social welfare function. Motivated by the international trend to reduce the number of prices set by regulation, we use a light handed regulation approach in which the only tool available to the regulator is the access price, and where retail prices are set by quantity competition in the downstream market. In this setup, we find that a regulator seeking to maximize total market surplus will set an access price that subsidizes the entrant, so that entrants that are less efficient than the incumbent firm can survive in the market. We then compare the outcomes of the full regulation model with those of the light-handed regulation model, in terms of final prices, firm profits, and consumer surplus. When the regulator faces incomplete information about entrant firms' costs and cannot offer a menu of contracts to potential entrants, we find examples in which light handed regulation can dominate full regulation
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Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics
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95/5, Department of Economics, University of York.
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