Working Title: What Insights can the Network Neutrality Debate Contribute to the Competition Regulation of Platforms?
28 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018 Last revised: 21 Sep 2018
Date Written: March 16, 2018
Abstract: A growing number of antitrust scholars have begun to question the extent to which antitrust enforcers’ current approach to defining and analyzing markets captures the full nature of competition in the digital age, particularly when platforms are analyzed. These multi-sided markets generate difficult economic questions about competitive dynamics and often require highly context-specific analysis to reach accurate conclusions. When compared to the clear, robust application of pricing theory to most single-sided product markets, this increased complexity creates problems for antitrust practitioners and business strategists who depend upon the predictable, consistent application of standards to advise companies. To improve the rigor and predictability of the competition analysis of platforms, the field must continue to develop a better understanding about the range of factors that lead to harmful outcomes.
Over the past several years, the network neutrality debate has served as a flashpoint around which these platform challenges have been discussed, producing a well-documented set of questions, arguments, and suggested solutions about how internet services and internet-dependent markets should be treated to protect consumers. After reviewing key research and scholarship on platforms, this paper reflects upon the various economic questions raised throughout the network neutrality debate and identifies which concerns resemble those found within the literature on platforms. After reframing the economic arguments for and against the anti-discrimination rules within this perspective, I will highlight key platform-related factors that played an important role within the debate and analyze how the solutions reached by each side ultimately answered different platform-related questions. Finally, I will discuss how these insights may apply to future telecommunications regulatory questions and beyond, considering platform-related antitrust issues more broadly. [Incomplete but outlined conclusion; must submit to conference for work-shopping]
Keywords: platforms, competition regulation, antitrust, network neutrality, multi-sided markets
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