Implementing an Open Internet: Republic of Korea and U.S. Perspectives and Motivations
15 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2013
Date Written: March 31, 2013
The Open Internet issue while not as hotly topical as a few years back continues to be a fundamental part of the policy debate here in the United States. Interestingly, in other countries, such as the Republic of Korea, this debate is very active, because of some fundamentally different implementation choices. In this paper we will explore these choices and the motivation behind them.
In their Open Internet Order, the FCC adopted three basic rules in which broadband providers: must disclose network management practices; may not block lawful content/applications/services/devices; and may not unreasonably discriminate against lawful traffic. They further stated that mobile broadband providers may not block websites or applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services. Since the adoption of this Order, there has been little
In 2011, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) developed their open Internet guidelines; however these guidelines proved insufficient to cope with the complex issues that arose when Samsung Electronics launched Smart TV and Kakao Talk launched Voice Talk (a free mobile VoIP service). One of the major mobile carriers, Korea Telecom (KT), decided to block Smart TV, and announced that it would block Voice Talk service unless subscribers or service providers pay extra. While the KCC initially took action on KT not to block Smart TV, in June 2012 it came out with a decision allowing operators to be able to restrict access to these mVoIP services for a rational traffic management, provoking an immediate backlash from subscribers and advocates.
After hearing divergent opinions through several policy debates, in July 2012, KCC published a tentative document, ‘The Guidelines for Reasonable Traffic Management & Use in the Internet,’ which gave specification to the prior basic guideline of 2011. Of note, these guidelines focus on implementation of allowable traffic management. Here, KCC allowed the mobile carriers (KT, SKT, LGU ) to charge a premium for voice service by discriminating subscribers based on the level of subscription rate, which the FCC disallows. Interestingly, the smallest mobile carrier, LGU , stated that it would allow its subscribers to access the Kakao Talk service as part of their existing data subscription plans – with no usage limitations and no additional charges – a stance that riled the larger carriers.
In this paper, we will describe the contrasting approaches and then consider what motivated these differences and the consequence they might have on the overall openness and operation of the Internet. In our initial analysis, we see that the differences between these country’s approaches are driven by differing: 1) attitudes concerning Internet liberalism 2) user expectations, 3) network histories, 4) relationships between the regulator and the carriers, 4) maturity of the application industry, 6) and competitive environments in the market. We plan to expand on this analysis through a rigorous review of the legal records and scholarly work in this area. It is our hope that this work will help international efforts to harmonize of a common understanding of Internet Openness.
Keywords: open internet, network neutrality, network management, telecom policy
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