Wednesday, October 01, 2014

South Korea’s gigabit broadband woes should serve as object lesson for FCC regulators | Network World

South Korea’s gigabit broadband woes should serve as object lesson for FCC regulators | Network World: Private South Korean firms, notably KT (the former Korea Telecom), SK Telecom and the cable provider CJ Hellovision, became the principal participants in the gigabit project, with the government committing about 5 percent of the total estimated budget.

But by 2011, only a very small-scale 1Gbps pilot project with 1,500 households in five South Korean cities had been launched, all with government funding. None of the private firms could make a case for moving ahead, however, since they had not yet developed a business model to justify the scale of investment that the KCC had said would be necessary.

Three years passed without any indication of progress on the effort, leading many to believe that the plan had hit an impasse. Then in July 2014, Chairman Chang-gyu Hwang of KT, the dominant broadband provider in Korea, representing almost half of the country’s total broadband market share, called a press conference—an announcement that I hoped would be an encouraging milestone.

Chairman Hwang told those assembled that the company faced its first annual deficit in 2013 due to its sales declines in wired broadband, along with almost-flat growth in mobile subscribers. It was the worst time in the company’s history, one that he called a “devastating year of poor performance.” KT even had suspended new customer marketing for 45 days and asked 8,300 employees to voluntarily resign to help the company overcome this crisis.

The real object lesson here is commercial investment in high cost telecommunications infrastructure is fraught with substantial business risk. It's that business risk -- and not the risk of common carrier regulation as some such as this article warn -- that produces market failure that in the United States has left some 19 million homes and small businesses without wireline Internet access according to Federal Communications Commission estimates.

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