In Competition and Chaos, Robert W. Crandall analyzes the impact of the 1996 act on economic welfare in the United States and how the act and its antecedents affected the major telecommunications providers. He argues that the act was far too stringent, inviting the Federal Communications Commission and state regulators to micromanage competitive entry into local telecommunications markets. Combined with the bursting of the dot.com and telecom stock market bubbles, this aggressive policy invited new and existing firms to invest billions of dollars unwisely, leading to the 2001–02 collapse of equity values throughout the sector. New entrants into the market invested more than $50 billion in unproductive assets that were quickly wiped out through massive failures. The 1996 act allowed the independent long-distance companies, such as MCI and AT&T, to live a few years longer. But today they are a threatened species, caught in a downward spiral of declining prices and substantial losses. The industry is preparing for an intense battle for market share among three sets of carriers: the wireless companies, the local telephone carriers, and the cable television businesses. Each has its own particular advantage in one of the three major segments of the market—voice, data, and video—but none is assured a clear path to dominance. Although the telecom stock market collapse is now history and the survivors are investing once again, Crandall concludes that the regulators have failed to adapt to the chaos to which they contributed.
Robert W. Crandall is a senior fellow in the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution, where his research has focused on telecommunications and cable television regulation, industrial organization and policy, and the changing regional structure of the U.S. economy. His previous books include Broadband: Should We Regulate Internet Access? (Brookings, 2002), Telecommunications Liberalization on Two Sides of the Atlantic (Brookings, 2001) and Who Pays for Universal Service? (Brookings, 2000).
Robert W. Crandall examines the effects of the AT&T breakup and weighs the costs and benefits to the residential and business consumer. On balance, he finds that the efficiency gains from opening up the telephone industry have more than offset the possible efficiency losses, which may be caused by the sacrifice of economies of scale and scope or the absence of fully compatible equipment and services. The replacement of regulation with competition has led to greater productivity in the telephone industry, a more efficient rate structure, and lower equipment prices.
Crandall traces the telecommunications evolution from its early beginnings as pairs of copper wires up through the historic 1982 decision to divest. He investigates the impact of technological changes, competition, and the advent of divestiture on the quality of service, local and interexchange service rates, productive efficiency, and income distribution. He also focuses on problems that linger after the breakup in the increasingly competitive but highly regulated sector.
There is a widespread misconception that the U.S. telecommunications industry has been "deregulated" and that Canadian authorities are following the U.S. lead. In fact, most services remain regulated, even though some markets, such as long-distance services, equipment sales and rentals, and local services, have been opened up. This book reviews the recent changes in the structure of U.S. and Canadian telecommunications industries and the changes in regulatory policy on both sides of the border. The authors analyze the effects of these changes in regulation on telephone rates in both the local and long-distance markets with particular emphasis on the impacts of regulatory reforms and competition on long-distance rates. They use their results to suggest how regulation should be structured to allow competition to replace monopoly on the road to the information superhighway.
The authors contend that for decades misguided regulation of the telephone sector in both Canada and the U.S. denied consumers the benefits of competition, distorted local and long-distance telephone rates, and blocked entry of new carriers and new technologies. They warn that the continued regulation of the telecommunications industry could be responsible for slowing the transition from "plain old telephone service" to a telecommunications marketplace that offers a wide variety of services. They conclude by outlining the choices open to policymakers and calling for liberalized competition all along the information superhighway.
Clifford Winston, Robert Crandall, and Vikram Maheshri argue that these increased costs cannot be economically justified. They create significant social costs, hamper innovation, misallocate the nation's labor resources, and create socially perverse incentives. In the end, attorneys support inefficient policies that preserve and enhance their own wealth, to the detriment of the general population.
To fix this situation, the authors propose a novel solution: deregulation of the legal profession. Lowering the barriers to entry will force lawyers to compete more intensely with each other and to face competition from nonlawyers and firms that are not owned and managed by lawyers. The book provides a much-needed analysis of why legal costs are so high and how they can be reduced without sacrificing the quality of legal services.