James A. Montanye
Does a monopolist aim to maximize profit, or simply to hide from the antitrust laws?
AT&T's absolute monopoly in the switched long-distance telephone market ended in 1976 when MCI rolled out its Execunet service. Twenty years later economists still question whether AT&T can influence the market price of long-distance services.
Recent empirical studies are split on the question, sometimes finding AT&T has considerable market power, and sometimes finding it has none.
It appears that economists studying the long-distance industry may be misinterpreting the historical record.
Janice A. Beecher, and Patrick C. Mann
While the prices play catch up, utilities and regulators should start looking for ways to mitigate costs.
Water utility rate increases have outpaced those of other utilities. In fact, water rate increases since 1984 %n1%n have surpassed the overall rate of inflation. Yet among utility services, water remains a real bargain; consumers spend less on water than on any other utility.
Ronald Rudkin, and David Sibley
By unbundling usage from access, utilities can maximize contribution to margin and yet still retain load.
With deregulation and industry restructuring, energy utilities face price competition from marketers, brokers, independent producers and even other utilities. To succeed in this environment, utilities will need to develop innovative pricing strategies that better meet customer needs and respond more effectively to competition. The common response by utilities to competition calls for price discounting to retain "at risk"
customers by meeting the competition head-on.
Steven isser, and Robert Michaels
Ask this question: Are Investors today earning what they thought they would, back when they last had faith in regulation?
As their customers discover more competitive prices, many utilities remain saddled with the costs of uneconomic plant and power purchase contracts approved under regulation. They seek compensation for these costs, but the amount deserves a close examination.
Some utilities seek remuneration that exceeds the market value of their common stock. Such a settlement seems overly generous for investors, who will continue to own their shares after the payoff.
Glenn D. Meyers, Buckner Wallingford II, and Horace J. DePodwin
And why policy on
stranded costs defies
a traditional legal or
There are sound economic reasons why policymakers should allow electric utilities to recover stranded costs through a competitively neutral network access charge, or some similar fee. First, differences in the quality of utility management appear to have contributed little to differences in electricity rates among states.
Christopher Garbacz, and Herbert G. Thompson, Jr.
Hardly at all. In fact, they do little more than reapportion income (em a task that lies outside the FCC's mandate.
The Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service recently proposed to expand subsidy programs for Lifeline telephone service. Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Joint Board seeks to add more low-income households to the telephone network.
Will such a strategy work? Our recent findings suggest not. They indicate that simple continuance of such programs, much less expansion, is a highly questionable proposition.
Dennis L. Haider succeeded the retiring R.J. White as president of Prairielands Energy Marketing, Inc. Haider moved over from v.p.-operations for the Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Co., another unit of MDU Resources Group Inc. Prairielands became a subsidiary of Williston Basin when Haider took over as president.
In a related development, Ronald G. Skarphol, a special projects manager of Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., takes White's place as v.p.-marketing and business development. Montana-Dakota is another MDU division.
Phil Hanser, Jose Wharton, and Peter Fox-Penner
The electric industry hasn't seen so much upheaval since Thomas Edison threw the switch at the Pearl Street Station. Full retail access to competitive markets in generation and supply will challenge traditional ways of doing business. But no change will prove more dramatic for electric utilities than setting a competitive price (em that most fundamental of business decisions.
In anticipation of competition, utilities have been experimenting to discern what forms of the "product" (em electric power (em customers might want, and at what prices. One such experiment is real-time pricing.
Richard Y. Roberts, commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for five years through July 1995, joined Reid & Priest. He'll work in the business, finance, infrastructure, government, utility and energy segment of the firm.
El Paso Energy International Co., a unit of El Paso Energy Corp., named a six-man management team, pulled from international operations and the recently acquired Tenneco Energy. Byron Kelley will be executive v.p.; John R. Cunningham will be v.p.-administration, engineering and asset management; William S.
William G. Shepherd
Flexible prices make markets hum,
but discounts discriminate when monopolies rule.
Many expect that the electricity industry is moving inexorably toward a much-publicized "new competitive era." Companies, regulatory officials and experts all regard the momentum as powerful.
So far, the changes are just beginning, and there is a long way to go to reach fully effective competition. %n1%n Yet even at this early stage, the merger and pricing strategies adopted by the established electric firms may be threatening the prospects for competition.