A Failed Regulatory Remedy? An Empirical Examination of Affordable Broadband Plan Obligations
This study examines whether three affordable broadband plans that emerged from merger proceedings in the United States have helped connect low-income households. The study employs a difference-in-difference approach that compares the change in adoption rates in the areas served by each service operator with the change in adoption rates in areas not served by the operator following the introduction of the affordable plan. This allows for isolating the additional contribution that each plan has had over and above the growth in adoption that would have occurred in absence of the plan. The results indicate that these affordable plan commitments have had no significant impact on residential connectivity among low-income households. Weak oversight and misaligned incentives are the main factors that explain these findings, which raise questions about the value of these commitments as a regulatory tool to advance digital equity.