Demsetz (1968) advocated competitive bidding as a replacement for natural monopoly regulation. Williamson (1976) and Goldberg (1976) argued that these problems of natural monopoly regulation are inherent in long-term investment under uncertainty, and that both long- and short-term franchising contracts may be more problematic than regulation. Williams illustrated this argument with the problems experienced in bidding to provide cable TV in Oakland. London Underground recently put out top tender to provide cable (thirty-year) contract for operation, maintenance, repair and renewal of its electricity distribution network. The evidence of this contract suggests that competitive bidding to provide a natural monopoly service is feasible and advantageous. The problems in Oakland CATV case were not encountered. However, the contract involves considerable resources to formulate and monitor, and envisages repeated modification and additional works. The possibility of competitive contracting to replace or supplement utility network regulation deserves further consideration.
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