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ISPAN calls for government intervention as conflict with NEA grows

The umbrella union of internet service providers in Nepal, ISPAN has called for government intervention as its ongoing conflict with NEA over pole rental charges deepened in recent weeks. Organizing a press conference today on January 2nd, the association drew the attention of stakeholders to the internet crisis as the electricity authority continues cutting off fiber cables causing internet outages in many parts of the country.  

During the press conference, it accused NEA of putting unnecessary pressure to pay for the unreasonably inflated pole rental charges. ISPAN complained that NEA raised the pole charges unilaterally and called it irrational.

It said the authority has cut off internet cables in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Biratnagar, Inaruwa, Pokhara, Khotang, Surkhet, Tikapur, Doti, Dhankuta, etc. over the pole rental issue.

Entangled cables wires in Ktm
Messy cables on poles

As the act of cutting off fiber internet cable continued to grow in frequency and intensity, ISPAN says it could now struggle to provide uninterrupted internet service. Its warning was deeply ominous. It suggested that the internet could go down anytime throughout the country.

Check out: NEA Warns to Cut Power Supply for ISPs over Poles Charges

“The government organ is itself disrupting internet access”

ISPAN Chairperson Sudhir Parajuli said that the government’s own company is disrupting the internet service which should be promoting the Digital Nepal goals.

 “Achieving the Digital Nepal goal is not possible without easy access to the internet. It is the backbone of the policy itself. However, the government’s own organ is trying to prove with its arrogance that it can shut down the internet,” Parajuli.

Internet shut down

He also drew attention to the committees formed to solve the pole rental issue. The previous committee submitted its report 14 months ago. But telecom authority Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) has not taken a tangible step in solving the accentuating conflict, Parajuli said.

On Ashoj 17, 2078, the intervention of MoCIT subdued the pole rent dispute between NEA and the Internet, cable, and telephone service providers. Then, a 6-member committee headed by the Joint Secretary of MoCIT was formed to resolve the rental charge dispute for the long term. The report is pending the final verdict at NTA.

Do read: How to Get Wifi Internet Connection at Home in Nepal?

Internet disruption is a violation of a human right

Earlier this week, Nta warned that NEA cutting fiber internet cable was ‘an act of human right violation‘. Releasing a notice, it called for MoCIT to intervene and help resolve the long-standing issue.

But the electricity authority has drawn strong rebuke since it started cutting fiber cables last year. In 2021 April, CAN, NTA, And ISPAN all condemned NEA for cutting fiber cables. The authority pulled back on its action after the growing wide criticism. However, it remained firm on its pole charges.

Recently, it even threatened service providers with an ultimatum and set criteria for using poles to run cables. ISPs to their credit did start removing messy fiber cables but didn’t prove effective. Nta has called for a sustainable resolution to solve the cable issue. Some ISPs started cable management work from Singha Durbar, however, it couldn’t be fruitful in solving the broader cable issue.

Also read: ISPs demand access to underground cable duct laid by NEA

NEA has implemented a new pole rental issue, but ISPAN has refused to comply with it

ISPAN has refused to comply with NEA’s new rental charges. It has been reasoned that the new charges will translate into the end-customers paying more for the internet. Likewise, ISPAN also clarified that the committee concluded the revised pole charges only add to the burden for internet customers. Highly recommended: New Pole Charges by NEA will Increase Internet Prices!

NEA pole rental charges for internet cables
(1 km has 20 poles)
Previous chargePresent chargeRatio of increment
Metropolitan/Sub-Metropolitan citiesRs 205Rs 7504 times
Metropolitan citiesRs 105Rs 4504.5 times
Rural MunicipalitiesRs 50Rs 3507 times
Source: ISPAN

The committee reported that NEA would have to charge as per the rates implemented in the fiscal years 2075/76, and 2076/77. It recommended that MoCIT, NTA, NEA, and Ntc representatives all must come for the dialogue regarding the agreement on the raised pole rentals.

ISPAN has been critical that none of its representatives was included in the committee. ISPs have accused NEA of neglecting the committee’s report and have refused to renew the contract.

Check this out too: Best ISPs in Nepal: Comparing Speed and Offers

NEA has yet to respond after ISPAN made its latest statement on the ongoing fiber cable cutting issue.

Do you think government intervention is the final measure in solving the crisis between ISPAN and NEA? What have you made up of the entire pole rental charges saga this far? You can share your opinion in the comments below.

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