Google backs network neutrality
By Kim Yoo-chul
A senior executive at U.S.-based search giant Google said that it is not desirable for mobile carriers KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus to limit user access to competitive applications or networks.
He said such a move will hinder the creation of an innovative ecosystem and that network neutrality should be taken into consideration as an issue of competition for people’s choice.
His view is likely to gain attention in Korea because the debate over network neutrality has been heating up between the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), mobile carriers and content providers after Kakao Talk recently launched a service offering free calls.
``Would all providers of services on the Internet need to pay the broadband provider to use the network, in addition to the fees that users pay for broadband? That is not feasible, nor would it create the innovative ecosystem that the Internet provides for services of all kinds,’’ said Google Vice President Vint Cerf, in a recent interview with The Korea Times.
``It shouldn’t be acceptable for a broadband provider to interfere with competitive applications simply because the broadband provider is in control of the broadband access to the Internet. Such interference denies users the choice of service they may want to access,’’ said Cerf, who is also an innovator of the computer protocols that form the Internet.
Korea is one of the world’s most-wired societies with over 93 percent of its population of 50 million Internet literate. Amid explosive demand for data-intensive devices such as tablets, smartphones and Internet-enabled TVs, tensions are escalating between the nation’s major telecom companies and manufacturers over network neutrality.
The latest decision by the KCC to allow mobile companies to charge customers for accessing mobile voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services from ``over-the-top’’ companies such as Kakao Talk, is a ``defining moment’’ in Korea’s net-neutrality debate.
Network neutrality is a principle which doesn’t allow Internet service providers or governments to restrict consumers’ wider access to networks or to discriminate between data traffic from different content and sites, according to software experts.
Due to increasingly burdened wireless connections, this ``core principle of Internet governance’’ is the top issue, that has lead KT to block Samsung’s smart TVs from accessing the Internet. KT is still in negotiations with Samsung and LG to decide fees it will charge for using its network for their Web-based televisions, according to officials from the companies.
``Once a user pays to get access to the Internet, all of it should be accessible because that is what the user is purchasing. We've completed surveys of users that show that the main reason why users purchase broadband connections is because of the services and applications on the Internet. It’s a virtuous cycle that is working well,’’ said Cerf.
It’s meaningless to talk about borders between nations in an era of openness and the Internet, though there are regulatory-related concerns surrounding the Web.
Cerf said countries need to find ways for international tie-ups to deal with Internet-abuse matters.
``We will also need to understand more fully what kinds of social norms are needed to make cyberspace safe to use without destroying the very properties that have made it so successful: freedom of expression, transparency and openness, participatory policy and technology development.’’
Although Google has promised to change some of its policies in South Korea as requested by the KCC, the nation’s telecommunications regulator is still asking the American software giant for more changes.
``Protection of personal information should be a high priority for all Internet application providers. We also need to educate people about what can happen when they share information on the Internet ― once it is available to anyone, it is possible for someone to upload to other sites or to capture and store the information,’’ Cerf said.
``I think that websites will be much easier for users to find using search engines if they permit indexing but this is the website operator’s choice.’’
In a question for ``what would be the next revolution’’ in an era of digitalization the Google vice president said, ``I think the likely next step is the Internet of Things and vastly-improved artificial intelligence. I also expect that we may see serious use of neural interfaces develop during the 2011-2025 period.’’
Referring to his ongoing pitches for other projects, Cerf said that he was working with a coalition including the Jemison Foundation, the ICARUS Group and the Foundation for Enterprise Development to design a spacecraft that can reach the nearest star system in 100 years.