Mon, Jan 01, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan Mobile urges relaxation of net neutrality

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY:The company president said foreign over-the-top content providers have been raking in profits while telecoms are paying to maintain networks

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Mobile has urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) to consider abandoning rules ensuring net neutrality, which it said would give telecoms more operational flexibility.

The principle of net neutrality requires Internet service providers to treat all types of data transmission equally, regardless of the content, the source and the number of users accessing the same content.

Taiwan Mobile president James Cheng (鄭俊卿) last week made the remarks at a forum attended by NCC chairwoman Nicole Chan (詹婷怡), NCC vice chairperson Weng Po-tsung (翁柏宗) and senior executives from five major local telecoms.

In a presentation, the company showed that 70 percent of telecom subscribers are fourth-generation (4G) mobile data users.

Most customers pay fixed monthly fees for unlimited access to mobile Internet and this has led to a dramatic increase in data communication traffic, the presentation showed.

Taiwanese 4G subscribers on average used more than 13.2 gigabytes (GB) each month, about 3.8 times as much as third-generation (3G) subscribers, the company said.

Despite the increased data traffic, telecoms have not seen their revenue grow. Instead, revenue has dropped from NT$217 billion in 2008 to NT$209 billion (US$7.27 billion to US$7 billion at the current exchange rate) last year.

Cheng said that the increase in data traffic is driven mostly by people accessing over-the-top (OTT) content provided by foreign platforms.

Local consumers use local telecoms’ networks to access foreign content, boosting revenues for OTT content providers, who collect nearly 90 percent of the online advertising revenue, Cheng said

“Telecoms have to expand their bandwidth, and maintain and operate the Internet, but they do not see a substantial increase in revenue,” Cheng said, adding that telecoms receive complaints from subscribers when their connection slows down.

The US Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal the country’s net neutrality rules is a great opportunity for telecoms to increase their revenues, as it allows them to charge online content providers, who depend on fast data transmission and more bandwidth, or to adopt a system with different tiers of service for different content providers, Cheng said.

Doing the same in Taiwan would allow local telecoms to earn their fair share of the profit, so the commission should consider following suit, Cheng said.

Even though the nation does not have specific net neutrality laws, consumers can still file complaints and request that the NCC intervene if telecoms charge certain Web sites higher fees or transmit them at lower speeds, Cheng said.

In addition to addressing net neutrality, the government should also cut red tape that prevents telecoms from developing innovative services, Cheng said.

“The is no lack of talented people in Taiwan, but innovation will never happen if the government does not relax regulations,” Cheng said.

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