Innovation, Investment, and Unbundling

Thomas M. Jorde, J. Gregory Sidak & David J. Teece


In this Article, we examine the neglected tradeoff between innovation and mandatory unbundling of telecommunications networks. Our analysis is prompted by the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in AT&T Corp. v. Iowa Utilities Board and by the Federal Communications Commission’s Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released later the same year, which address which network elements in the local telecommunications network shall be subject to compulsory sharing among competitors at regulated cost-based rates. Economic analysis indicates that mandatory unbundling at prices computed on the basis of the total element long-run incremental cost of the various network elements belonging to an incumbent local exchange carrier will adversely affect the ILEC’s incentives not only to upgrade or maintain existing facilities, but also to invest in new facilities. Mandatory unbundling at TELRIC prices will also encourage competitive local exchange carriers to deviate from the socially optimal level of investment and entry. Finally, the confluence of mandatory unbundling and other FCC policies aggravates the distortion of investment decisions.

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