Korea Telecom chief Lee Suk-chae has reignited the debate over net neutrality, by calling on South Korea’s big technology companies to pay for use of the operator's networks.
Lee told a technology forum that he believes Korea will “see a big data blackout” if OTT players don't agree to help pay for the rapid growth in data traffic that they are contributing to. “There’s no free lunch. It doesn’t make sense to ride free on networks,” the Korea Times reports.
The telecoms chief said network traffic has swelled 153 times over the past three years, causing huge network investment burdens for the nation's operators, and forcing them to raise funds for network investments from their own customers. The traffic growth is also impacting operators' earnings. In March, KT reported a 26.6% slump in first quarter profit a despite a 9% increase in revenue.
Lee's comments are believed to be addressed at technology companies including LG and Samsung, as well as the government.
KT has already started exploring measures to ease the cost burden of over-the-top content. In February, the company briefly blocked OTT content for Samsung's internet-enabled TVs, and threatened to do the same for LG unless it trumps up carriage costs. But KT lifted the ban after just four days when regulator KCC objected.
While KT has been the most outspoken proponent of content providers sharing the cost of network investments, rivals LG U+ and SK Telecom have also expressed concerns about the level of OTT content flowing through their networks.