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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 8)

All News 07:07 November 08, 2021

Netflix's actions should match its global status

Netflix is not changing its "free-rider" policy in Korea, resisting demands to pay fees for network use. Last Thursday, Netflix Vice President Dean Garfield reiterated his company's position that it is up to telecom service providers to send the content, citing network neutrality as the reason. Net neutrality is the promise of the international community to prohibit discrimination in the use of communication networks. But it was never meant to allow telecom providers to transmit content free of charge.

It is somewhat ironic that the controversy over Netflix's free riding has been rekindled by the global popularity of "Squid Game." According to SK Broadband, a local internet service provider, Netflix's traffic in Korea skyrocketed 24-fold in September when the drama hit the air. The cost of network expansion to stabilize traffic was significant. However, Netflix is unlikely to pay a penny for it while enjoying huge earnings here.

In contrast, domestic platform service providers, such as Kakao and Naver, pay network usage fees. Considering that other global streaming service providers, such as Apple TV+ and Disney+, have promised to make indirect payments, Netflix's move is unfair. "It is as if Netflix is the only player in the Squid Game refusing to pay participation fees," a local commentator said. We can hardly agree more.

The international community largely agrees on the need to revise the principle of net neutrality, which Netflix regards as a "golden rule," in keeping with the calls of the new era. The U.K.'s Guardian daily also agrees, saying, "When the rule was first made 25 years ago, few expected that four or five internet firms would account for 80 percent of the worldwide traffic."

The U.K. government has begun to revisit net neutrality. France's judiciary branch also ruled recently that internet service providers can refuse to upgrade networks to free riders. SK Broadband argues that Netflix pays what appears to be network use fees to U.S. and French telecom companies. Netflix is abandoning the responsibility it has as a global streaming giant by refusing to fall in line with the worldwide trend. The company should realize that it cannot solve the snowballing controversy by just dragging its feet.

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