From the standpoint of economic analysis, whether an industry should be operated as a regulated natural monopoly or should be opened up to competition is a function of long-run costs. Recent technological advances are making smaller firm sizes practical in many industries. It is becoming more common, for example, for cable TV companies to face competition from other cable companies as well as digital satellite systems. An increasing number of localities are allowing competition in local phone service.
It seems reasonable to predict that in the coming years fewer industries will fit the Natural Monopoly model. This is not to say that such industries will disappear, only that, as economists, we should be aware that technological changes can significantly affect industrial structures, including that of Natural Monopoly.
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