Ever since the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal Net Neutrality, the organization and its chairman, Ajit Pai, have been facing bipartisan criticism from the public.
A poll conducted and published by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation shows 89 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Republicans, and 86 percent of independents, oppose repealing net neutrality.
In spite of this, Net Neutrality is, effectively, dead. This poses a legitimate question: What is the internet without Net Neutrality like?
In countries where there are no regulations, everything on the internet is segregated, compartmentalized, repackaged, and sold at a higher price.
In December last year, Slate writer April Glaser suggested that Americans should look to other countries if they want to know what the internet without Net Neutrality is like. In countries such as Portugal, for instance, consumers choose between different internet packages while streaming sites and texting platforms, for example, are sold independently and separately.
What is America doing wrong and what is South Korea doing right?
According to The Inquirer, South Korea ranked number 1 for the 12th consecutive quarter for the world’s fastest internet connection speed. The country’s average broadband adoption rate is 26.1 megabits per second. This puts South Korea ahead of countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Merrick Laravea, an American PR consultant based in Seoul, argues South Korea’s internet infrastructure “shows how Net Neutrality should be done.”
In a piece published today on Forbes, Laravea wrote, “While private sector innovation has played a big role in making cheap, lightning fast internet available across South Korea, forward-thinking government policies have helped preserve these gains.”
The American ISP market has an extremely high barrier to entry and looks oligopolistic. According to data published on BGR in December 2013, 67 percent of Americans have two or less options when it comes to internet service providers. Koreans, on the other hand, according to Laravea, have access to multiple ISPs across the country. The average monthly bill in South Korea is $29.34 per household. In contrast, American consumers pay as much as $66.17.
Private sector innovation, in combination with well-thought-out government policies, has helped preserve Net Neutrality in South Korea, while ensuring fair competition among ISPs. This drives down costs and improves overall service.
This seemingly Utopian collaboration between the government and the private sector can be traced back to 1987. In 1987, the South Korean government installed a policy called the “Framework Act on Information Promotion.”
This policy incentivizes ISPs to serve communities across the country, prioritizes equal access for all South Korean citizens, and ensures ISPs remain open to regulatory changes. But, most importantly, in South Korea, regulations are paired with funding. This allows ISPs to build necessary infrastructure without suffering losses.
So, instead of being dominated by a small number of large sellers, like the American ISP market, it seems like the South Korean market allows enough maneuvering space for companies and consumers alike, creating competition and choice in one fell swoop, instead of offering an illusion of choice and allowing a small group of powerful corporations to control the internet.
Could the South Korean model for Net Neutrality be the answer for America? At the moment, this seems to be a matter of political will.