Power utility and ISPs lock horns over pole rental fee againOn Monday, the Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal said that Nepal Electricity Authority has started cutting cables in many places.
The dispute between Nepal Electricity Authority and internet service providers has escalated again over pole rental fees. The authority has also stopped supplying power to the service provider offices in Kathmandu.
On December 23, the power utility sprung into action and cut the internet cables in many places following the internet service providers' reluctance to pay the new rental fees for the poles they have been using.
The service providers say that the authority has revised the rental fee unilaterally.
The electric pole dispute has remained unresolved for more than five years.
On Monday, the Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal, organising a press meeting, said they have paid the electricity charges to the authority but they were surprised to see the power utility cutting their cables in many places.
According to them, internet service has been interrupted in Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Inaruwa, Kakarvitta, Gaurigunj, Pokhara, Dharan, Khotang, Surkhet, Kailali, Butwal, Tikapur, Atariya, Bhairahawa, Doti, Lalitpur, Dhankuta and Duhabi. In many places, the internet was disrupted for a whole day.
Sudhir Parajuli, president of the association, said the government has invested heavily in making a digital Nepal, but on the other hand, it is disrupting the services to the public wilfully.
“A committee formed to resolve the pole dispute submitted the report to the authority a year ago but it has not been implemented,” he said. “We have demanded that there should be a separate price regulator to fix the rental fee,” said Parajuli.
In 2018, the power utility increased the rental fare of the electric poles by three fold unilaterally.
The power utility was charging Rs205 per pole until 2018 and then revised the tariff on a per km and per pole basis. With the revision, the rental fee was hiked to Rs750 monthly.
The service providers had criticised the move stating it was high and refused to pay the hiked rental fees. The government then formed a committee when the tussle escalated.
The study report submitted to the Communication Ministry by the committee in December 2021 stated that the rental fee for the electricity poles increased from 2018 to 2020 was exorbitant and needed to be reviewed.
Recently, the authority cut the power supply in the data centre and operation point of the internet service provider.
The consumer rights forums have even filed a case at the Supreme Court against the authority for interrupting internet service and raising the fares of electricity poles. The case is pending.
Suresh Bahadur Bhattarai, the spokesperson of Nepal Electricity Authority, said that he is not aware of the issue.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology formed the panel consisting of representatives from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, Nepal Electricity Authority, Nepal Telecom and Law Ministry to finalise the rental fee for the use of the electricity poles besides the management of wires on them after the utility began cutting them for non-payment of the rent in December 2021.
The panel said that the current fee demanded by the Nepal Electricity Authority was too high and that it should be corrected on a scientific basis. The study report has also recommended infrastructure sharing as installing separate equipment by each service provider would be costly and repetitive.