Police to help communications regulator with investigations

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Police to help communications regulator with investigations

Crucial changes will take place in the broadcast and communications industry in 2015 as police will be allowed to crack down on illegal subsidies on smartphones given by mobile carriers or phone vendors.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) said Wednesday that police will work alongside its new task force to combat illegal subsidies. The commission added that the team will be created early this year.

The government tightened regulations on smartphone subsidies last year after they were identified as a main culprit in unfair smartphone pricing.

“We will start operating the investigation team composed of nine personnel from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the police department as early as February or March,” said Seo Seong-hoi, a spokesman for the KCC.

The commission said it decided to enlist the help of the police in its new investigation squad because it is difficult for the KCC, which does not have judicial power, to prevent retailers from disposing of data about illegal subsidies or fleeing before an investigation takes place.

It also took into consideration the fact that guerrilla subsidies have been handed out even after the Mobile Device Distribution Improvement Act, which banned them, took effect in October.

The three mobile carriers, SK Telecom, KT and LG U+, have continued to give discounts of more than the legal limit of 300,000 won on smartphones, on condition that the users return the phone after 18 months.

After the third-biggest carrier LG U+ launched a compensation program Zero Club for iPhone 6 subscribers that succeeded in attracting new customers, SK Telecom and KT introduced similar programs.

However, it was controversial because consumers must repay the amount of the subsidy if they break or lose the phone.

The KCC said last month it will start restricting the compensation system if the carriers continue to require that their customers pay them back.

Also next year, a law will go into effect that says that mobile carrier and online storage providers must start using filters to prevent juvenile users from viewing obscene content.

Starting in April, carriers and mobile virtual network operators will be required to block inappropriate content for people under the age of 18 who signed their own service contracts.

As of now, blocking obscene content is left up to the mobile phone user.

The KCC will also carry out inspections to see if the carriers are enforcing the blocks on content deemed harmful to young people.

Online storage service providers such as Webhard and P2P also must establish a filtering system.

The KCC plans to ensure the effectiveness of the measure by charging criminal penalties on businesses that do not take the technological action to filter out pornography and checking the operational status. Webhard is known as a major source of pornography, the KCC said.

Meanwhile, the government said it will focus on boosting the Internet of Things (IoT) in 2015.

According to the government’s IoT plan established last year, it will support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups with unique technology that are working on complex projects.

In addition, the Science Ministry will open two DIY labs for anyone to use to work on developing IoT. Three DIY open labs are already running, in Gangnam, southern Seoul, Songdo, Incheon and Yongin, southern Gyeonggi.

The ministry will also establish an IoT Innovation Center to support product development and monetization of IoT technology from start-ups and SMEs.

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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