Authority directs internet companies not to disconnect users for non-paymentService providers say they need government help as their costs have increased while little money is coming in.
The Nepal Telecommunications Authority on Friday directed internet service providers not to disconnect people for non-payment of bills. The companies say they need government help as their expenses have swelled because of the need to buy extra bandwidth to handle the increased load on the network.
Acting on complaints from subscribers that they were being disconnected during a difficult time amid the virus lockdown for not being able to pay online, the industry regulator asked internet companies not to suspend service or collect late payment charges.
“We have to purchase bandwidth from India in dollars, and the exchange rate has gone up. To cater to increased demand, we have been managing by buying additional international bandwidth which has increased our costs,” said Bhoj Raj Bhatta, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal.
Bhatta said that it was difficult to continue the service in the current situation as internet utilisation had jumped by 25 percent with the entire population confined to their homes.
He added that internet companies had to pay 25 percent of the fees received from their customers to the government. "Service providers are encountering higher expenses while revenue inflow has slowed because they have not been able to collect payment from customers, resulting in cash problems."
Issuing a press statement on Sunday, the association called on all internet users, except the elderly and differently abled, to make timely payment through digital medium. “We have not received any communication from the government,” Bhatta said.
He said that internet service providers had been able to collect only 30-35 percent of the subscription fees, making it difficult for them to operate their service and administration.
It would be a big relief for service providers if the government provides soft loans at minimum interest from the rural telecommunication development fund to allow them to operate their services without hindrances.
Internet and telecommunication service providers have a total capacity of 400 gigabytes daily, and they share 70 and 30 percent of the capacity respectively. But with internet utilisation reaching 500 gigabytes after the lockdown, an increase of 30-40 percent, internet companies are providing service by adding international bandwidth capacity, said the association.
They had been managing the network load by dividing it during peak hours and working hours, but they are finding it hard to handle the load currently as the internet is being utilised 24 hours a day, with greater usage during the daytime, said Bhatta.
According to the data released by the association, domestic traffic consumption of the Netflix cache, among others, has jumped by 157 percent after the lockdown, rising from 17 gbps to 43 gbps.
International traffic consumption of Netflix, gaming and TikTok has also increased by 100 percent after the lockdown.