Steering Incentives of Platforms: Evidence from the Telecommunications Industry

61 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020

See all articles by Brian McManus

Brian McManus

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Economics

Aviv Nevo

Northwestern University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Zachary Nolan

Duke University

Jonathan W. Williams

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

We study the trade-offs faced by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that serve as platforms through which consumers access both television and internet services. As online streaming video improves, these providers may respond by attempting to steer consumers away from streaming video toward their own TV services, or by attempting to capture surplus from this improved internet content. We augment the standard mixed bundling model to demonstrate the trade-offs the ISP faces when dealing with streaming video, and we show how these trade-offs change with the pricing options available to the ISP. Next, we use unique household-level panel data and the introduction of usage-based pricing (UBP) in a subset of markets to measure consumers' responses and to evaluate quantitatively the ISP's trade-offs. We find that the introduction of UBP led consumers to upgrade their internet service plans and lower overall internet usage. Our findings suggest that while steering consumers towards TV services is possible, it is likely costly for the ISP and therefore unlikely to be profitable. This is especially true if the ISP can offer rich pricing menus that allow it to capture some of the surplus generated by a better internet service. The results suggest that policies like UBP can increase ISPs' incentive to maintain open access to new internet content.

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Suggested Citation

McManus, Brian and Nevo, Aviv and Nolan, Zachary and Williams, Jonathan W., Steering Incentives of Platforms: Evidence from the Telecommunications Industry (May 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27083, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3592160

Brian McManus (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Economics ( email )

Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

Aviv Nevo

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Zachary Nolan

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Jonathan W. Williams

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Economics ( email )

Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

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