Purpose – This paper aims to develop a greater understanding of international telecommunications policy diffusion through preliminary, qualitative analysis of an expected utility model. The model is tested through analyses of diffusion of spectrum license allocation policies within and between regions. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative comparative case method is used. Cases are developed from secondary data from the European Union and South America, and analyzed at the national and regional levels. Findings – The results suggest: the expected utility model can be used for in-depth qualitative analyses to compare effects of various diffusion mechanisms; diffusion of spectrum license allocation policies at the regional level was more strongly driven by a policy’s likely effectiveness, as compared to potential payoffs for policymakers; and conversely, at the national level diffusion was driven by both payoffs for the policymakers and likely policy effectiveness. Originality/value – The two academic contributions of the paper are its expansion of a unified policy diffusion model to simultaneously account for regional and national levels of governance, as well as for technological change and its application in the telecommunications domain. Practical contributions include providing a framework for systematic analysis of a telecommunications policy’s benefits for the public as well as policymakers.