South Korea’s parliament has started debating over proposed legislation that aims to ensure payment as mobile network fees from global content providers such as Netflix and Alphabet’s Google.
Some countries in Europe are also demanding that European Commission should come up with a new legislation to ensure that Big Tech firms partly finance telecoms infrastructure, as video streaming and other data usage surges.
“Google and Netflix account for more than a third of domestic traffic. It befits companies to review the issue more proactively,” lawmaker Hong Suk-joon said during the hearing.
Others disagreed, saying imposing fees on the big tech companies could mean they could raise their own fees and undermine South Korean content creators, Reuters news report said.
“It risks the collapse of domestic content providers while trying to protect a small number of domestic internet service providers,” said Jung Chung-rae, head of the parliament committee overseeing the issue.
Google’s YouTube has campaigned against the bill and more than 259,824 people have signed a petition opposing the legislation, according to activist group Opennet.
It will be necessary to deeply review the way the business is run, Google South Korea’s country director Kyoung Hoon Kim told lawmakers.
Chung, a director at Netflix’s South Korean unit, said her company was looking for ways to handle surging traffic.
“We are developing a number of technical measures to efficiently utilise networks and respond appropriately to traffic growth,” Chung said.
In Europe, a regulators’ plan to make Google, Meta and Netflix bear some telecoms network costs has been welcomed by big telecoms operators, but smaller ones warned it would distort the telecoms market and harm competition.
It costs huge money to establish and maintain subsea cables and infrastructure that bring data from one place to another and the exploding popularity of global video content has raised the costs of bringing data stored overseas, experts said.
YouTube has 41.8 million active South Korean users, out of a population of 51.6 million. They used YouTube for a combined 1.38 billion hours in September, according to data provider Mobile Index.
Global mobile data traffic reached 67 exabytes per month by the end of 2021, projected to reach 282 exabytes in 2027, Ericsson’s Mobility Report indicated in June. Video traffic accounts for about 69 percent of the traffic, and is expected to rise to 79 percent in 2027.
South Korean network provider SK Broadband has gone to court in the hope of making Big Tech pay fees.
Legislation could have repercussions including content providers passing on costs to end-users, said Kim Hyun-kyung, professor at Seoul National University of Science and Technology.