There’s at least one player who’s not particularly happy about the success of the Netflix hit Squid Game—and that’s SK Broadband, a South Korean internet provider. According to Reuters, the ISP is suing Netflix to pay up for using so much bandwidth and the maintenance costs due to traffic surges stemming from the streaming giant.
By SK Broadband’s estimates, Netflix owes 27.2 billion won ($22.9 million) in 2020 alone. The ISP handles roughly 1,200 Gigabits of Netflix data processed per second as of September, according to Reuters. That’s up 24 times from May 2018, and popular Netflix Korea productions like Squid Game and D.P. are purportedly a big reason why.
Netflix isn’t having it, however. The company has already appealed the ruling. A few days ago, Netflix published a blog detailing its contributions to the South Korean economy, claiming it’s created 16,000 jobs and $4.8 billion in growth. In the blog, Netflix says it’s been a “platform for the spread of new Hallyu culture through shows like Kingdom, Vincenzo, and even the recently premiered Squid Game.” It also touted that Squid Game is the first Korean series to make it to the No. 1 spot on Netflix US.
As for where all this is coming from? Earlier in June, a South Korean court sided against Netflix in a case where the streaming company argued that SK Broadband had no grounds to demand bandwidth fees. These fees would essentially force streamers like Netflix to pay extra to ensure their content reaches users. At the time, Netflix argued it was just doing its job by creating content, and the expenses were part of SK Broadband’s duty to provide internet to its subscribers. Instead, Reuters reports that the Seoul Central District Court ruled that it was “reasonable” for Netflix to be “obligated to provide something in return for the service.”
At the heart of this is that good ole debate over net neutrality and data caps—and it’s a battle we’ve seen before. Should SK Broadband succeed, it would set a precedent that may embolden other ISPs to try and do the same. Back in 2014, Netflix and Comcast were at odds over the ISP throttling Netflix. There was simply too much Netflix traffic and the infrastructure to handle it hadn’t been built—and neither Netflix nor Comcast wanted to pay for it. In the end, Netflix forked over the money and has been paying Comcast for better streaming speeds for more than seven years. But while the future of net neutrality appears to be somewhat brighter (for now) under the Biden Administration, it’s clearly not a done and settled deal the world over.