Deficit Arising Due to Social Obligations
(a) Deficit not covered by the regular telecom pricing mechanism
The diagram above shows three different price levels, namely,
There are two components to the deficit. One is the deficit arising due to the difference between Bar A and Bar B, and the other is due to the difference between Bar B and Bar C. In the case of the latter deficit, it is clear that the deficit arises because of social objectives.
The deficit between A and B could be funded through an increase in rental or in tariff, or both. However, in order to encourage a rise in teledensity (or to provide universal service), the increase in rental might be limited up to a particular level. The other option is to increase the tariff. To the extent that a cap in the rise in tariff is put for social reasons, the deficit is again due to emphasis on social objectives. Otherwise, the price could be increased to cover the difference between A and B in the diagram above. Thus, even if there is a deficit due to the first reason, i.e. due to a gap between A and B not being covered by rental or by an increase in price (i.e. an increase in B), this deficit would arise for social reasons.
(b) Certain aspects relating to universal service obligation
The discussion above has certain implications for the calculation of the cost of meeting universal service obligations (USO). For simplification, without addressing the issue of the exact content of USO, consider the situation given below.
In the diagram above, CC shows the forward-looking cost of linking up and providing some basic telecom service to different subscribers. The subscribers are arranged in the order of increasing costs. CC is similar to a marginal (or addition to total) cost of linking up the different subscribers to the network. The average cost of doing so is given by AA, which will be below CC. For simplification, we can consider the normal commercial return to be linked to the average cost, i.e. to AA.
Suppose OQ subscribers have to be linked to the network. The line RR shows the per subscriber average revenue obtained by the operator, which includes a rental per subscriber and an average estimate for revenue from a cost-based benchmark price. The position of RR is such that a reasonable commercial return is provided to the operator. In the diagram above, this return is shown by the area of the rectangle formed by RRAA (not drawn in the Figure).
One way of considering the cost of USO would be to calculate the net costs (i.e. costs not covered by returns) which arise when the high cost segments are covered. In the diagram above, this would correspond to the triangle BCA, which shows the deficit arising due to linking up Q1Q subscribers because the costs of linking them are more than the average return from the link up.
A noteworthy feature of this situation is that the point B in the diagram above is based on the principle of profit maximization (or marginal cost equal to marginal revenue), but the price RR is determined on the principle of reasonable commercial return. This reasonable commercial returns is based on average costs AA, which incorporate the average effect of the cost BC in the diagram above. If in addition to the reasonable return, a revenue equal to BCA were to be provided to the operators, the total revenue would exceed the previously determined reasonable commercial return. Three different options could be considered in this context.
Retain price RR, and provide the additional revenue corresponding to BCA. Take this additional payment into account in a price cap type of mechanism, keeping in mind also the funding required for the deficit arising due to Bar B minus Bar C above.
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