Nepal’s Ministry of Communication, Internet and Technology (MoCIT) has requested that the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) stops removing internet cables from its utility poles
This week, the ongoing conflict between Nepal’s internet service providers and the NEA has escalated yet further, with the MoCIT formally asking the NEA to stop removing internet service cables from its utility poles.
For many years, Nepal’s ISPs have been using the NEA’s utility poles to host internet and TV cables, a highly efficient strategy for rapidly deploying networks across the country at minimal cost.
However, around a year ago, the NEA announced it would be increasing the rent on the use of its utility poles to host internet cables – in some cases by up to 700%.
Naturally, this price hike posed a considerable concern to the ISPs, who took to legal channels to complain.
Shortly after the increase was announced, the ISPs told the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) that they would need to pass on these costs to customers, raising monthly subscription prices by around 150 Rs (~$1.13) in rural areas and 300 Rs (~$2.27) in urban areas to handle this increased rental price.
According to The Internet Connectivity Index-2021, the average monthly charge for broadband services in Nepal in 2021 was 1,600 Rs (~$12.10).
By October 2022, the ISPs were still disputing the new pricing and refusing the pay the increased fees, hence the NEA began removing internet cabling from their utility poles in various regions in, causing significant disruption to internet services.
The move was met with condemnation by both the ISPs and the NTA, with the latter suggesting that the NEA could potentially be punished by law for obstructing services.
This week, with the cables’ removal still ongoing, the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Nepal (ISPAN) has called for government intervention to stop the NEA, arguing that the ISPs were being unfairly pressured to pay the unilaterally increased fees.
The NEA, on the other hand, says it is simply following legal procedure, removing the cables from its infrastructure due to lack of payment.
Now, the MoCIT itself has been forced to weigh in on the conflict, requesting that the NEA cease removing the cables due to the internet’s integral role in public life. It urged the NEA and the ISPs to come to a speedy compromise, noting that internet access is key to the Digital Nepal Framework, the government’s 2019 plan to increase digital literacy and ICT access throughout the country.
The MoCIT has officially requested that the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, which oversees the NEA, order the energy provider to cease its disruptive activity.
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