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S Korea to tighten grip on Netflix, Google from next week

A law revision set to take effect next week in South Korea will tighten rules for data-hungry internet giants such as Netflix, Google and Facebook amid growing calls for stable services.

Should they fail to meet the new rules, they could face an administrative fine of up to 20 million won ($18,350).

Earlier this week, the Cabinet passed an amendment to the ordinance of the Telecommunication Business Act, stipulating that online content service providers are responsible for providing stable services to users.

The new rules, set to take effect from December 10, apply to large online service companies, which account for 1 percent or more of the country’s total data traffic in the last three months of a year, essentially targeting popular global online service providers as well as local players Naver Corp and Kakao Corp.

The revision comes as global streaming giants Netflix and Google, which operates YouTube, have recently come under scrutiny over their response to service complaints despite their growing popularity, reports Yonhap news agency.

YouTube faced criticism here after its service went down for hours last month, while a ruling party lawmaker accused Netflix for not properly responding to service issues in May and June this year during a parliamentary audit in October.

All the while, the two companies have boosted their presence in the country.

South Koreans are estimated to have spent on average nearly 30 hours on YouTube in September, according to market tracker IGAWorks.

Under the new rule change, the companies will have to provide stable services to users regardless of the devices or ISPs used and take measures to prevent excessive online traffic by working with ISPs, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT.

The relatively paltry fine, however, has left some critics wondering about the revision’s effectiveness.

“The revision itself has meaning rather than the amount of the fine,” an ICT ministry official said. “There hadn’t been a way to legally hold these companies accountable for not providing stable services.

“As online content providers have grown in influence, there’s a need for them to handle greater responsibility,” he added, explaining that the government is not expecting a string of new violations due to the revision. IANS

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