You might ask - what would a free marketer like myself expect from a NZ broadband network. We all have long come to understand that free markets don't always deliver desirable outcomes. There are reasons for this:
1. Cross-market subsidisation - profits extorted through market power in some market can be used to finance new investment in others. We thus want to ensure in a global world that companies are able to finance improvements to services, but that any surplus profits are invested in the local business.
2. Market collusion - profits are not able to be excessive because two market competitors are able to extort excessive prices from the consumers who have no 'effective' choice. It matters little if there are just two players pretending to compete or 10 who have a formalised price-following or price-targeting strategy. i.e. You might find that the CEOs of these companies get together and they decide that in 2011 Telco A will be the price leader, in 2012 Telco B will lead any price changes. It goes without saying that those pricing changes will be favourable.
3. Transfer pricing - They all establish enterprises abroad, say in Ireland (with a lower tax rate), which purchases the hardware, and they pass on the costs to the NZ operating entity, so they look competitive, and profit margins look thinner.
4. Accounting tricks - Maybe they will use creative accounting to understate profits, such as making provisions for the acquisition of future capital, or the depreciation of old plant, which help to understate costs. These provisions don't even have to be real; they are just planning, so those profits can be released at any convenient time.
The question then becomes as to how does one achieve a truly competitive market? Or how does one ensure that business earns a reasonable profit, business has an incentive to cut costs, but at the same time provide an efficient service; and how does one get business to accurately and honest report its performance such that the market achieves an optimal outcome. We might also ask:
1. What constitutes fairness? Who gets the market surplus created in these transactions - the consumer or the business operator? Who created the surplus? Business.
2. What right does the consumer (or the government) have to ensure surpluses are not invested abroad in new or more competitive markets?
These are the intellectual questions that never seem to get answered. They are not new questions. They were asked and answered by people like David Ricardo and Karl Marx; not always with desirable interpretations. Far from wanting revolution, I would like to see an efficient market. Perhaps the strongest prospect for competition comes from a change in the way we structure society. This is an intellectual debate we do not have because our political system is so impervious to ideas. People are so concrete-bound. They are reluctant to engage with ideas, because the legislature does not place a value on ideas. It values perceptions because that is what the majority of voters respond to. They response to the 'concrete' because they have no effiective power, they have little specialised interest in all-manner of issues. So they are passive, only responsive to subtle messages.
I am not going to answer this question here. The greater issue is our political system.