Local-loop unbundling

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Local loop unbundling (LLU or LLUB) is the regulatory process of allowing multiple telecommunications operators to use connections from the telephone exchange to the customer's premises. The physical wire connection between the local exchange and the customer is known as a "local loop", and is owned by the incumbent local exchange carrier (also referred to as the "ILEC," "local exchange," or in the United States either a "Baby Bell" or an Independent telephone company). To increase competition, other providers are granted unbundled access.


Policy background

LLU is generally opposed by the ILECs, which in most cases are either former investor-owned (North America) or state-owned monopoly enterprises forced to open themselves to competition. ILECs argue that LLU amounts to a regulatory taking, that they are forced to provide competitors with essential business inputs, that LLU stifles infrastructure-based competition and technical innovation because new entrants prefer to 'parasitise' the incumbent's network instead of building their own and that the regulatory interference required to make LLU work (e.g., to set the LLU access price) is detrimental to the market.

New entrants, on the other hand, argue that since they cannot economically duplicate the incumbent's local loop, they cannot actually provide certain services, such as ADSL without LLU, thus allowing the incumbent to monopolise the respective potentially competitive market(s) and stifle innovation. They point out that alternative access technologies, such as Wireless local loop (WLL) have proven uncompetitive and/or impractical, and that under current pricing models, the incumbent is in many cases, depending on the regulatory model, guaranteed a fair price for the use of his facilities, including an appropriate return on investment. Finally, they argue that the ILECs generally did not construct their local loop in a competitive, risky, market environment, but under legal monopoly protection and using taxpayer's money, which means, according to the new entrants, that ILECs ought not to be entitled to continue to extract regulated rates of return, which often include monopoly rents from the local loop.

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