Korean telcos are trying something new. They are trying to cut the bandwidth into slices, one for self-driving cars, another one for remote surgery, and one for everybody else, and prioritize the traffic for those specialized services, and sell those slices at higher prices. This is paid prioritization, which cuts against net neutrality which has allowed scalability of mass communication by all by crowdsourcing delivery of data among all computers and therefore making delivery free except the cost of maintaining physical connection among the computers.
Korean telcos have had it easy. Korean network neutrality rules did not ban all “discrimination” like FCC rules or BEREC rules but just “unreasonable discrimination”. This qualification “unreasonable” is on top of the usual exception for “reasonable network management” present in Korea/FCC/BEREC rules. Because of this qualification, Korean telcos were not disciplined for throttling mVoIP for the admitted purpose of protecting their voice revenues, a clear network neutrality violation under the previous FCC rules and BEREC rules. If they could get away with throttling, why not prioritizing?
Now, why would they want to do this all of sudden in the 5G era? Because they can. 5G deployed properly expands the width of the data pipeline by 100 times theoretically and by 10 times actually. Telcos thought that this surplus can be sold at profit by cutting secure premium data lanes out of the bandwidth and selling those lanes at premiums. This is prioritization. If they are allowed to do so, no matter how congested the general internet is, the bandwidth reserved for the premiums can never be used. This creates the gatekeepers who are needed for enforcing the premium toll on selected data, violating the network neutrality. If there is so much surplus bandwidth, why do we even need network slicing? We can do remote surgery and self-driving cars on the general internet. Actually, the developers are writing their software with 4G in mind. Also, disaster response communication, one of the prioritized uses that telcos are flaunting, are done best through the apps that people affected by the disasters are already using for ordinary daily purposes.
According to Frode Sorensen, the admittedly main author of BEREC’s network neutrality rules, commenting at IGF 2018 Geneva, mentioned that SW-based bandwidth adjustment is okay (e.g., people adjusting mobile connection capacity back and forth together with connection fees) as long as all people are getting the consented-to speeds. That is no different from wired internet where people pay according to the size of the pipes they are getting for the last mile. However, if all or part of bandwidth above the last mile is reserved for use by some people but not others, those others receiving the slower congested internet are not receiving what they consented to.
A better solution is to force the developers to innovate with general internet where all data are passed through at best efforts basis instead of relying premium lanes purchased at high prices. Let them come up with “killer apps” which will make people willing to pay more for higher speeds, the revenues from which will pay for the new 5G network. That is how the internet has evolved anyway.
Session Description: 5G technology is well touted, but poorly understood. Experts agree that the transition from 4G to 5G will be signicantly different from previous transitions, leading to new physical infrastructure and system architectures, bandwidth utilization, capabilities, and uses. These include the introduction or expansion of smart cities, augmented/virtual reality, driverless cars, and the “Internet of things” (IoT). Yet, despite this fanfare, there has been relatively little public discussion or analysis of the human right impacts and implications of 5G. The goal of this session is to educate participants about these differences and workshop an assessment of the opportunities that currently or will soon exist to inuence the 5G roll-out to enhance positive and mitigate negative human rights impacts. This session will build on an initial session on 5G and human rights that the Global Network Initiative (GNI) organized at the Freedom Online Conference in Berlin in November 2018.
[Related Open Net Actions]
1. Open Net Hosts “Where is Net Neutrality Going in the Age of 5G” Seminar at the National Assembly (2018.9.3.)
2. Open Net Invites Frode Sorensen to Speak at “Net Neutrality in Europe for the 5G Era” Seminar (2019.2.1.)
3. “Sender-Pay Rule” Under Interconnection Regulation of 2016 Threatening Net Neutrality Should Be Abolished! Facebook-Skt Settlement Shows How Isp Can Shift the Cost of Complying With the Regulation Onto Users (2019.2.27.)