By Kim Boram
SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- A senior U.S. official has backed net neutrality in an apparent move to lend support to Netflix, which is in dispute with South Korean internet service providers over paying network usage fees.
"Net neutrality is key to making sure we can all enjoy content when and how we want it," Jose Fernandez, the U.S. under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, tweeted Thursday.
He met with officials of Netflix Services Korea, the Motion Picture Association and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry on Wednesday during his three-day stay in Seoul.
Net neutrality refers to the principal that internet service providers must treat all internet communications equally no matter what kind of content, platform, application or type of equipment they are.
Netflix has been under fire in South Korea for refusing to pay for the use of the network despite a huge traffic overload caused by its streaming service.
SK Broadband has said Netflix's traffic on its network exploded to 1,200 gigabits per second (Gbps) in September 2021 from 50 Gbps in May 2018 amid the popularity of "Squid Game" and other Korean-language drama series.
"Squid Game" helped push up Netflix's monthly active users in South Korea to 9.48 million in September 2021, the highest since Netflix launched its streaming service in South Korea in 2016, according to Nielsen KoreanClick.
In September 2021, SK Broadband filed a lawsuit against Netflix to demand network usage fees, saying the U.S. streaming giant did not come forward for talks even after a local court ruled in June 2021 that it is "reasonable" for Netflix to provide something in return for the service.
Fernandez said he also met with Google Korea to exchange views on global business opportunities in South Korea and the role of technology and smart regulations.
Google Korea has been under investigation by the local telecommunications regulator for allegations that it violated the country's in-app payment laws.
The U.S. official arrived in Seoul on Monday for talks on a range of bilateral economic and trade issues, meeting with key government and business officials, including Foreign Minister Park Jin and Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung.
Fernandez is now visiting Japan after wrapping up his trip to Seoul.
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