The National Assembly announced on May 11 that its Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee passed a Telecommunications Business Act amendment and its Legislation and Judiciary Committee is about to handle it. The purpose of the amendment is to force certain content providers to maintain the quality of their communications services.
The revision is to prevent the repetition of cases similar to Facebook’s past access route change in relation to SK Broadband. Content providers to be subject to the amendment will be sorted out based on traffic volumes instead of sales so that the amendment can cover global content providers. In addition, the duty of network quality maintenance stipulated in the amendment was replaced with the phrase of ensuring means for stable services.
On May 11, the Korea Internet Corporations Association, the Korea Venture Business Association and the Korea Startup Forum pointed out the ambiguity of the term, stable, can lead to substantial practical confusions. This issue is likely to be addressed during presidential decree-related discussions to follow the passage of the bill.
The amendment also stipulates that every global content provider must designate a local agent in charge of user protection. This is to better regulate global content providers that have no address or place of business in South Korea and facilitate communication between them and users. Although the current act also stipulates the same duty, the duty in the current act is limited to personal information protection. The local agent designation became mandatory in March last year, but only 20 percent of global content providers were complying with it in September last year.
South Korean Internet service providers’ burden is expected to be reduced once the bill makes it to the plenary session of the National Assembly, which means a legal basis for imposing charges on global content providers. Then, the bill can affect the litigation Netflix initiated against SK Broadband last month to pay nothing for network use.
According to the service providers, non-large South Korean content providers can benefit from the bill, too. “Once the free-riding of global content providers is addressed, local content providers can compete without discrimination and an ecosystem can be created for startup growth,” one of them explained.