The electricity pole rent row between the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) shows no sign of being resolved easily.
While the NEA claims that it has offered the infrastructure on rent for the lowest possible rate which was not reviewed for years, ISPs say that the increased rental charges for the use of the electricity poles to extend fibre optic cable would shoot up the internet cost.
Computer Association of Nepal (CAN) Federation and ISPAN had already submitted recommendations to the government about keeping the internet cost at the lowest possible, they blamed that NEA created a situation where ISPs are forced to increase the internet charges by Rs. 150 to Rs. 300 a month with rural areas to witness the higher rises in the monthly rates.
They claimed that people were using internet at a reasonable cost despite high tax imposed on the service only because of the decision of the NEA to provide its utility poles and Optical Ground Wire (OPGW) at a lower cost.
Through a new regulation, NEA has proposed to double the charges on fibre cables stretched along the 66kv transmission lines, making it Rs. 32,000 a year without taxes. For fibre optics on 33kv transmission lines, charges will reach Rs. 30,000.
Likewise, the government-run electricity monopoly has proposed to increase the rental charge for the utility poles to Rs. 200 per annum from Rs. 50 in the rural areas and Rs. 300 from Rs. 200 in city areas.
Earlier, NEA had revised the utility charges in 2018. It had again planned to hike the utility pole charges in 2019 but deferred from the decision after widespread criticism.
Deadline on Friday
The recent squabble between the power utility and private sector service providers erupted after the NEA issued a notice about the proposed new rates for the poles. It has set October 1, Friday as the deadline to pay the rental charges as per the increased rates.
“NEA has already published the notice thrice asking us to pay the charges as per the new rates, failing which it has threatened to cut and remove the internet wires from its utility poles,” President of ISPAN, Sudhir Parajuli, said at a programme organised by Terai Development and Communication Centre on Tuesday.
He said that should the nation aim at bringing the cost of internet down, it must pay attention to their demands. “NEA would be responsible for any untoward incident and internet obstructions caused by cutting of wires and not listening to our demands,” he warned.
Beauty is the concern
Responding to the demands of the ISPs and Information and Communication Technology entrepreneurs, Managing Director of the NEA, Kul Man Ghishing said that the charges were increased to maintain the beauty of the city.
“NEA wants to promote the sharing of the IT infrastructure so that there would be fewer cables and bigger business. Why don’t the ISPs use 96 core cables instead of 24 core cables to facilitate higher bandwidth? The 96 core cables can be shared by multiple companies,” he said.
Ghishing blamed that every ISP wants to pull its own cables along each pole which had given an ugly look to the city.
According to NEA estimates, about 90 per cent internet cables hanging from the electricity poles are useless. When damaged, the ISPs do not remove the cables and instead stretch a new one to resume the service which has resulted in a mess of entangled cables. Poles are bearing a huge burden due to this practice of the ISPs.
NEA ready to cooperate
The power utility raises Rs. 250 million to Rs. 300 million a year from the charges of utility poles and OPGW cables. Ghishing claimed that if the ISPs share the cable and other infrastructure, the internet charges will go even lower. “NEA is ready to cooperate and collaborate with the private sector service providers. To clean up the entangled wires, we have created an underground optical fibre infrastructure to transmit internet signals,” said Ghishing. The NEA has also created additional two under-ground channels to lay fibre optics if necessary in the future.
Increased rate will raise NEA revenue to around Rs. 500 million. The ICT sector’s annual income including the telecommunication companies is about Rs. 150 billion which is collected from individual households. NEA collects about Rs. 70 billion revenue of which Rs. 30 billion comes from the domestic consumers – 90 per cent of the population.
Director of the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA), Min Prasad Aryal, said that the telecom sector regulator had tried to resolve the issue. “Internet is an essential service and must not be disrupted,” he said while calling for the facilitation to the ISPs.
Source : TRN,