Need for new conceptions of net neutrality – Berlin IGF 2019

by | Feb 10, 2020 | Net Neutrality, Open Blog | 0 comments

*This is a summary of Kyung Sin Park’s speech at the Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality meeting at

I think it was a mistake for Tim Wu to use public utility or other common carriers such as gas, electricity, to promote his idea of network neutrality as non-discrimination principle. It entrenches into people’s minds an idea that you pay for what you use, without really thinking about what people really “use”.  The usage based pricing exceptionally allowed only on mobile Internet somehow corrupted people’s mind into thinking that what you use on Internet is the amount of data downloaded.

The idea behind network neutrality is to remove a gatekeeper, not even a reasonable one, so that all terminals can talk to one another even without physical connection between them, further so that powerless individuals can exercise massive freedom of speech that governments and companies that exercise through television and newspapers.  Setting it up as non-discrimination principle leaves open the possibility of allowing “reasonable” discrimination, which creates an opening for the telcos and policy makers to exploit in order to justify several things in Korea and overseas: firstly, network slicing and secondly, usage-based local loop access fees.  The idea is that it may be reasonable to charge more for time-sensitive traffic types such as for remote surgery or self-driving cars, or that it may be reasonable to charge for using the Internet.   

Internet is organized through a promise that all computers (more accurately all routers) will receive packets from one neighbor and pass to next neighbor free of charge or any non-financial condition. All computers (again more accurately all routers) participate in delivery of data received and sent by all other computers(routers) so that there is no one to charge for delivery and there is no one to pay for delivery.  So there is in principle NO charge for delivery of data, and therefore no charge for using the Internet.  What should be charged is the cost of installing and maintaining physical access through which all the data passed around by all the routers.  This is the crucial difference between telephone and Internet, and therefore there is no “sending party network pays” rule in Internet.     

The network neutrality should be re-established as a principle that there be no requirement for passing the data packets whether such requirement is financial or not.  NN as non-discrimination principle only speaks of non-financial requirement for passing data packets but does not speak much of financial requirements. BTW, that there be no delivery fee is how economists write network neutrality.  The idea of the Internet is that there should be no gatekeeper.  If there is a requirement for passing data packets, financial or non-financial, reasonable or non-reasonable, it calls for a gatekeeper.  Any such requirement, even a so-called “reasonable network usage fee”, will create an opening for the telcos to exploit and establish themselves as gatekeepers.

Look at Korea’s net neutrality guideline, the result of such exploitation, which  allows “reasonable” discrimination.  Under the lax provision, mVoIP and P2P are all blocked with impunity, for competing with the telcos’ voice revenues, and for creating huge downloads.  Also, it is threatening to allow 5G network slicing – minimum it can be interpreted as allowing network operators to use surplus bandwidth to make premium slices and sell each slice at different prices.

Also, the idea that you pay for what you use reached the high level and resulted in mandatory sending-party-network-pays usage based pricing among ISPs, which has caused ISPs incentives to charge usage based pricing on content providers, which resulted in the highest network access fees in Korea, 7-8 times London and Paris, 4-5 times New York and Los Angeles, and 2-3 times Tokyo, Hong Kong, and and Singapore, all according to 2017 Telegeography 3Q data on median 1 Mbps monthly price.


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