Protect the Internet! Defend Net Neutrality! We Oppose “Network Usage Fee” Bills. 

The Korean legislature is deliberating on the so-called “network usage fee” bill that contradicts the international human rights standard, network neutrality, and it may pass through the critical stage in a matter of a few days. 

The ‘network usage fee’ bill will undermine the Korean people’s freedom and activities on the Internet. (It will also undermine others’ freedom in sharing and discussing with people in Korea through the Internet by imposing fees on the inbound traffic payable to Korean telcos.)  

Open Net and the Korean people are opposing the “network usage fee” bill to protect the Internet as the space for openness and sharing, and have begun a petition drive. 

Your participation, wherever you are, will support the cause!

For questions, contact Open Net +82-2-581-1643,  

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“Network Usage Fee” Bill will take us back to the age of hundreds of dollars spent on international phone calls 

In the pre-Internet past, speaking with people overseas or sending messages or photos to many people incurred substantial costs. With the Internet abiding by network neutrality, we can now speak with loved ones overseas nearly free of cost and make available your messages and videos to millions and billions of people again nearly free of cost. 

Any law imposing toll on the “use” of the network is bound to cause costs on people communicating with one another and accessing the information.  

Such law will generate extraordinary revenues for telecommunication companies but the lives of the people who have lived with the Internet now need to go through transformation. 

Is charging data delivery for throughput necessary? 

The Internet access is a homogeneous commodity wherever you purchase it: the full connectivity with all other users of the Internet. All individuals and companies are already paying “Internet access fees”* to their respective local telcos providing access to the Internet.

There are hundreds of thousands of such local networks but no network operator or ISP charges or attempts to charge fees for the amount of data entering or crossing their networks, EXCEPT Korean telcos, the real sponsors of the “network usage fee”** bill. 

These telcos belonging to the “country of advanced Internet” are proposing to receive fees for having their customers receive data from other networks on the Internet, in other words the toll charges for data delivery. 

*Internet access fees: Money paid to the local network operator to connect to the Internet. It consists only of the physical cost of maintaining the connection and is therefore set in proportion to the connection capacity, not the volume of data delivered. The data delivery cost on the Internet is crowdsourced among all participants to the global network on the principle that ‘if everyone delivers everyone else’s data, no one needs to pay any data delivery cost’, as long as the network maintenance cost is defrayed by the Internet access fees paid by all of them. 

**Network usage fee: Money paid by content providers to the local ISP for the amount of data that ISP’s customers consumed by requesting the data from those content providers. Korean ISPs began using this term from 2011 when they attempted to impose separate charges on NAVER and DAUM (now KAKAO) on top of the Internet access fees.  

South Korea’s 2016 data toll charges had consequences:

Internet access fees 8 times London, Paris, 5 times USA, 10 times Germany 

South Korea has already implemented the “sender pays” rule since 2016 which imposed such data toll charges among ISPs. Since the enactment of the rule, ISPs hosting popular content providers had to pay other ISPs in proportion to that popularity. ISPs shifted those costs over to ISP’s customers by increasing the Internet access fees. As a result, since 2016, Seoul’s Internet access fees (IP Transit Fee measured by Telegeography) have become higher than other regions: 5-6 times New York and London, 8 times London and Paris, 10 times Frankfurt. Many startups and content providers left Korea because of this. 

The new “network usage fee” bill will extend the sender pays rule to ISP’s customers directly, who will not have legal obligations to pay the data toll charges.   

There will be no BTS under “network usage fee” law

If content creators have to pay every time people view their contents, the world’s most viewed videos such as Baby Shark (100 million views) or Gangnam Style (44 million views) could not exist.  Could BTS or Squid Game achieve the current popularity? 

The Korean legislature is trying to justify the ‘network usage fee’ bill, saying that it will be applied only against the big platforms. However, most of the people providing contents on the big platforms are individual or small to midsize content creators. Contrary to the legislative purpose, all of us will be locked under the ‘network usage fee’ law. Under the new law, big platforms hosting popular contents will have to pay the local ISPs in proportion to those contents’ popularity. They can no longer host popular contents for free, and they will be forced to collect fees from either content creators or content consumers. Even the existing fee-based platforms will have to charge more only on Korean consumers and will present less titles for Korean viewers.  

Paying as much as using? … We are already paying as much as using the network.

Some argue that we have to pay for the Internet as much as we use, like electricity and water. 

We already are. All of us individuals and companies are already paying in proportion to the connection capacity. 

But we do not pay just because more data come or go through that connection. It is like, when we go on a tour, we pay for plane tickets and hotels but do not pay in proportion to how much sight we actually see. 

The Internet, charging only on connection and making data delivery free, led the information revolution. A proposal to charge for data delivery takes us back to the days of charging toll charges on data like telephony and demolishes the advance we made through the Internet. 

The new law mandating ‘network usage fee’ will first force the content providers to pay the metered fees like those of telephony and postage. Who will bear the burden in the end? The users. 

The network usage fee is a concept that did not exist in the Internet ecosystem. It is a concept concocted by Korean telcos who wanted to raise more revenues on the Internet. 

We oppose Korea’s legislature making a law that hurts its own people and favors the telcos. 

* Please watch the following videos and webtoon for more information: 

Net Neutrality Explained v.1: How Internet Works
Net Neutrality Explained 2: Why Internet is not charged
Net Neutrality Explained v3: How Charging Senders can be unfair

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