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Editors' foreword

The Review of Network Economics

Vol 5, Issue 4 - December 2006 

Editors' foreword
The current issue of the Review of Network Economics is a special issue on "Airports and Airlines" that studies the nexus between developments in the airline industry and developments in airport strategies. We thank Professor David Gillen for putting together this topical issue for the journal.

At the same time, we would like to announce our call for papers for a new special issue on the high stakes issue of "Net neutrality". Net neutrality is expected to remain a major telecom policy issue for years to come. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) the high stakes, the debate often has generated more heat than light.

Traditionally, transmission quality and pricing of all Internet traffic were independent of the content of packets, or the identity of the sender or receiver. This model – reflecting the 'end-to-end' principle – is under increasing strain as consumer adoption of broadband spawns new applications, such as interactive voice or video services, which demand higher quality of service (QoS) than available under uniform treatment. Broadly, the Net neutrality debate addresses what deviations should be permitted from the traditional model. In the U.S. at least, this debate has focused on residential broadband-access providers, as they are perceived to possess greater market power than other Internet segments. Broadband providers argue that, both to ensure efficient network use and to help defray the high investment costs of consumer broadband facilities, they need increased flexibility in prioritizing or otherwise managing Internet traffic, as well as flexibility to set prices based on QoS levels offered to content or application providers (CAPs) that interact with those consumers. Critics fear that flexibility would be misused, for example, to levy a 'tax' on Internet CAPs, under the threat of degrading traffic to or from their sites if they refused to pay for 'enhanced' service, or to discriminate against them when they compete against the offerings of an integrated broadband provider.

We invite scholarly contributions on the relevant economic issues. Possible topics include: (1) the tradeoffs between QoS traffic management to better utilize network capacity versus expanding capacity to prevent congestion; (2) the pros and cons of permitting broadband providers to adopt more sophisticated pricing schemes, including pricing to consumers based on the value of service/application, and – drawing on the theory of two-sided markets – charging CAPs for access to consumers; (3) the impact of such departures from “neutrality” on investment and innovation in both broadband and the complementary CAP segments; (4) the feasibility of distinguishing “good” from “bad” discrimination in traffic management or pricing; (5) how various tradeoffs depend on the degree of broadband competition and its future prospects; (6) whether regulation should be considered in segments other than broadband access, such as caching services, that also affect the delivery of Internet traffic to consumers; and (7) implications of evolving Internet technologies, and the feasibility and wisdom of considering Net neutrality regulation not just for “the (public) Internet” but also private IP networks.

Within the broad range of topics relating to Net neutrality, we welcome all rigorous economic contributions – theoretical, empirical, or careful case studies that provide useful analogies (e.g., what can be learned from past regulatory experiments).

We are delighted that we have three leading experts on Net neutrality to jointly guest edit the special issue. They are Professor of Economics at Georgetown University, Marius Schwartz, Professor and Executive Director of Silicon Flatirons Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado, Phillip Weiser, and Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Communication Law and Policy at the University of Southern California, Simon Wilkie.

In the first instance, all submissions or questions about possible submissions should be directed to the editor of the journal

Co-editors: John Panzar and Julian Wright

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