Not only has electronic communication revolutionised our way of interacting with each other with fundamental changes in private life and at work, it has also become a substantial economic factor which bears a high potential for added value. Traditional communication markets are complemented by activities that originate from the Internet as a new communication platform. This has led to some tricky regulatory problems. The present issue of Intereconomics addresses two of them: a special section on “net neutrality” summarises a debate on how to regulate (or not to regulate) capacity problems in the Internet; and two articles on the regulation of telecommunication markets discuss the issues of identifying competition problems on the one hand and of the appropriate regulatory approach on the other. The term “net neutrality” refers to a heated discussion in the USA. Everyone who uses the Internet enjoys the uncomplicated way of accessing information, downloading content and communicating with the rest of the world. This has led to data traffic of unimagined dimensions, resulting in the usual problems of congestion. As a consequence, network operators invest in additional network capacity. This investment should – ideally – be financed by those who use the pipes. However, in a “neutral” setting, every data transmission is considered equal and capacity problems are solved by queuing (or by algorithms that are undisclosed). This may cause slight delays in the transmission of information, which is not critical for most services (e.g. the most frequently used e-mail system), but can cause disruptions in more sensitive adoptions, such as voice over IP (VoIP).
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