by Tianjiu Zuo
The broadband market is unique for municipal (government-owned) and cooperative (member-owned) competitors. Their participation, however, raises conflict of interest concerns. Both municipalities and cooperatives are often owners of utility poles that are an essential input for broadband deployment. Internet service providers (ISPs) must lease pole attachment space. While most pole attachment rates are regulated, municipal and cooperative pole owners are exempt by Section 224 of the Telecommunications Act. This paper, therefore, studies the competitive effects of municipal and cooperative ISPs, and the effect of potential entry by municipal and cooperative electric utilities (non-ISPs), on broadband entry and quality. I add to the existing literature by building a dataset of municipal and cooperative non-ISP service areas, designing a method to clean the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband data, developing a novel geographic entry threat model, and analyzing municipalities and cooperatives in conjunction. I categorize markets into three types: rural, urban clusters (2,500 to 50,000 people), and urbanized areas (≥ 50,000 people). Looking at Illinois from June 2015 to June 2018, I find that the presence of a municipal ISP lowers the probability of market entry and service quality in urbanized areas. The presence of a cooperative ISP lowers the probability of market entry and service quality in rural areas and urban clusters. The presence of a municipal non-ISP has little to no effect on the probability of market entry or service quality. The presence of a cooperative non-ISP appears to increase the probability of market entry in rural and urbanized areas, but depress service quality in urbanized areas, though these effects could be attributed to bad data.
Advisor: Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L32, L41, L96