As the Trump administration has discussed how to change “net neutrality” in earnest, interest in net neutrality policy changes is also rising in South Korea. However, the government announced to keep the current net neutrality policy for a while. Net neutrality is the principle that wire and wireless communication service providers and governments regulating the Internet must treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially against content service providers, including video service.
An official from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) said on September 10, “As the United States is expected to change net neutrality policies, an increasing number of people are also raising questions about the net neutrality policy changes in South Korea. However, the South Korean government will not change any net neutrality guidelines and notifications for a while. We don’t have any plans to revise or abolish guidelines on net neutrality and internet traffic operated by the government.”
However, he said, “The government will focus on addressing reverse discrimination against domestic Internet service providers between global companies.” Until now, domestic Internet service providers have argued that they are being reverse discriminated as they are paying huge net fees to communication service providers, though global companies including Google and Facebook don’t pay for using the networks.
The South Korean government is sticking to the current net neutrality policy because the approach in the U.S. and South Korea differs for net neutrality rules. The U.S. government has kept the tough net neutrality policies that prohibit communication service providers from charging fees to content and platform service providers such as Google, Facebook and YouTube in order to encourage them grow.
However, the Trump administration has announced to revise the net neutrality rules as various types of charging systems are being developed and communication service providers show a remarkable stagnation in growth. It will gather the opinions of communication service providers to come up with new net neutrality policies.
However, South Korea has an approach to net neutrality rules in the perspective of business interest infringement of users, instead of service providers. It still believes that the guidelines given by the MSIT will improve user convenience and benefits through the cooperation between network service providers and users. Accordingly, the guidelines grant a net neutrality exception with rational reasons but the rationality will be regulated after.
In addition, the notifications given by the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) set up detailed standards for net neutrality by focusing on excessively imposing unreasonable and discriminative conditions and limits that can harm the interests of telecommunication users.
On the other hand, the government plans to eliminate reverse discrimination in network fees between Internet service providers at home and abroad. Yoo Young-min, minister of science and ICT of Korea, recently said, “We are giving considerable thought to reverse discrimination and we haven’t prepared for it well. We will start preparing to solve reverse discrimination.”
The government plans to form a governmental task force team consisting of the KCC, Ministry of Strategy and Finance, National Tax Service and Financial Services Commission with the MSIT as the center by the end of this month and come up with measures to address problems like net fees and tax evasion.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration clarified net neutrality in law, strongly banning discrimination. However, the Trump administration decided to discard net neutrality in May and collected opinions until August 30 (local time). When the process of collecting opinions is completed, the U.S. government will decide on whether to keep or scrap net neutrality. Internet service providers including Google and Facebook are opposed to abolishing net neutrality but a majority of experts say that the decision will not be overturned because Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is taking the initiative in dumping net neutrality.