Whether or not to ease “net neutrality” before the commercialization of the next or fifth-generation mobile communications system (5G) is becoming the talk of the town.
Byun Jae-il of the ruling Democratic Party opened a debate for new net neutrality policy in the 5G convergence era at the National Assembly on March 21. He said, “We need to prepare for an institutional system that can maximize a 5G growth potential by changing the current net neutrality system that only emphasizes equal treatment mechanically.” Byun’s remarks go against You Seung-hee of the Democratic Party who proposed a revision of the Telecommunications Business Act to strengthen the principles of net neutrality.
On the same day, 5G Forum Convergence Service Committee Chairman Park Yong-wan gave a presentation, also pointing out, “The uniform regulations on net neutrality run counter to the basic attributes of 5G that provides a tailored quality by service.”
Net neutrality is the principle that governments should mandate Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. However, there is a need for services that fit for attributes by each sector before the 5G era. Accordingly, starting from next month, relevant policies will be abolished in the United States, bringing about a wind of change. Previously, Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Kim Sung-tae also showed a concept of “Post Net Neutrality” that eases net neutrality. Kim is planning to submit the related bill to the National Assembly after local elections in June.
The telecommunications industry aggressively calls for easing net neutrality. Yoon Sang-pil, head of international cooperation division at the Korea Telecommunications Operations Association (KTOA), said, “Just like an old saying, 'One man sows and another reaps,' mobile carriers bear costs but Internet service providers get earnings. It will be an ideal to repeal net neutrality, like the U.S. But, we should at least reestablish the principles of net neutrality by allowing differentiated services while maintaining transparency and no blocking that can directly affect the user quality.”
In contrast, the internet content industry, including portal sites, strongly opposed to the idea. Cha Jae-pil, head of policy at the Korea Internet Corporations Association (KICA), said, “Internet service providers still pay high network usage fees even now. Naver spent 73.4 billion won (US$68.47 million) on network usage fees alone in 2016, Kakao about 20 billion to 30 billion won (US$18.66 million to 27.99 million) and Africa TV 15 billion won (US$13.99 million). Net neutrality is the base that will create and grow startups. We should legalize net neutrality rather than the current guidelines.”
As the interests between the telecommunications industry and internet service industry are in sharp disagreement, the government maintains a cautious attitude. Jeon Sung-bae, director of telecommunications policies at the Ministry of Science and ICT, said, “We need to continuously monitor a technological and industrial trend, international trend and effect on interested parties and comprehensively review all related facts.” Kim Jae-young, director of user policies at the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), also said, “Since net neutrality policies have contributed to the advancement of Internet ecosystem and innovative services so far, we need to approach the issue circumspectly.”