Why Isn't the Price of Broadband Obeying Moore's Law?

MIT Technology Review points to an analysis done by Kellogg School of Management & Northwestern University on why Price of Broadband connections are not obeying Moore’s law.

Greenstein says that a 2003 decision to leave regulation up to the broadband companies themselves has caused much of the stagnation in broadband service prices. In most urban markets, only two wireline providers supply the vast majority of homes, and the remainder are served by a range of wireless Internet providers. Revenue from homes makes up 70 to 80 percent of revenue in wireline Internet access market, while business demand makes up the rest.

“So if you were in such a market as a supplier, why would you initiate a price war?” Greenstein asks. With no new entries on the market, suppliers can compete by slowly increasing quality but keeping prices the same. According to Greenstein, quality is where providers channel their competitive urges.

Meanwhile, once companies have installed the lines, their costs are far below prices. “At that point, it becomes pure profit,” Greenstein says. A company might spend around $100 per year to “maintain and service” the connection, but people are paying nearly that amount every other month. Greenstein says that it is not surprising that prices were high during the buildout phase in the early and mid-2000s, since the firms were trying to recover their costs. “However, we are approaching the end of the first buildout, so competitive pressures should have led to price drops by now, if there are any. Like many observers, I expected to see prices drop by now, and I am surprised they have not.”

Nothing surprising here. There are fixed costs (Laying Copper/Fiber etc)  involved which Telco’s put in each market which are required for economies of scale. These economies then create barriers to entry, protecting the existing Telco’s business. Once customers are acquired and their habits aligned, it makes it difficult for Potential entrants to seize sufficient market share.