Internet services knocked out by fuel shortages, power cutsInternet services have been hit as internet service providers (ISPs) have not been able to keep their system running due to fuel shortages and power cuts.
Internet services have been hit as internet service providers (ISPs) have not been able to keep their system running due to fuel shortages and power cuts.
If an increase in load-shedding hours by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has prevented them from fully recharging their backup batteries, they can’t use their generators because there is no diesel.
According to ISPs, internet services have been disrupted at several locations across the country, especially during the blackout hours.
“The situation is alarming. The amount of fuel we are receiving is insignificant,” said Suman Lal Pradhan, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Nepal. According to Pradhan, ISPs have two challenges; one, running their central control room and, two, keeping the distribution points at various locations in operation.
“Most of the equipment at the distribution points run on backup batteries. Due to the haphazard load-shedding, the batteries are not being recharged to the optimum capacity,” said Pradhan, adding that their plan to operate the machines with alternative power had failed due to the unavailability of oil and solar panels. An ISP requires 150 litres of diesel daily to keep the control room running. They have been relying on black market fuel to remain in operation. The ISPs lament that the government has
not put them in the list of emergency service providers and nor paid due attention to their woes.
There were 39 registered ISPs across the country providing internet services to 131,333 subscribers as of mid-September 2015, according to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). The number of clients does not seem to be large, but they include important institutions like banks, airlines, media outlets, hospitals, education institutions and hotels. A service disruption might take a big toll on the functioning of these institutions. “Many emergency services and establishments like hospitals, airports, banks and media houses, among others, depend on our services. However, the government has not categorized us as emergency service providers,” Pradhan said. “Institutions that provide emergency services are heavily dependent on our services.”
According to Sudhir Parajuli, president of Subisu, a major internet service provider, fuel has been hard to come by for the past two weeks. “We have enough stock to keep the system running for just two to five days. We have notified the NTA about this,” said Parajuli. He added that a number of their distribution centres had gone down.
Apart from load-shedding and unavailability of fuel, another problem that has upset ISPs is transformers blowing up frequently and knocking out power to entire neighbourhoods. According to the NEA, around 530 transformers have exploded till date due to a sharp rise in the load. Fuel and gas shortages have forced people to use electricity to cook their food, straining the distribution system.
Parajuli said that exploded transformers had remained unrepaired for three to four days, making it impossible for ISPs to serve their customers. They said that they couldn’t do much about the situation.
“It is difficult for us to make our customers understand this. We have been keeping our own system running by paying up to Rs200 per litre of diesel. But regarding a breakdown in the electricity distribution system, we cannot do much,” Pradhan said.
The NTA has provided facilities like dedicated feeders to ISPs, but not much else, they said.