A rather unusual intergovernmental row seems to have broken out in Nepal, where the country’s Ministry of Communication, and Information Technology (MoCIT) has indicated its displeasure over the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) cutting internet cables, resulting, predictably enough, in internet outages for many customers.
MoCIT has apparently written to the country's Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation asking it to stop NEA cutting cables. The umbrella union of internet service providers (ISPs) in Nepal, ISPAN, has also called for government intervention.
Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) has also been involved, to the extent of telling MoCIT that the act of cutting off internet cables is a human rights violation.
The reason NEA has been cutting off fibre internet cables and power supply lines for ISPs could involve a dispute over charges for pole rentals. ISPAN members argue that NEA has been bullying the ISPs into accepting inflated pole rental charges. However, It’s not clear whether NEA accepts that is cutting cables to force payment of the new pole charges, rather than doing so for aesthetic or safety reasons.
That said, in April last year NEA announced new rental charges on utility poles for internet and cable TV providers, which ISPAN warned would inflate internet costs. As happened just about everywhere else, internet use skyrocketed in Nepal during Covid-19.
According to the Nepalitelecom.com website, MoCIT has asked the energy ministry that internet service be provided without any disruption from NEA pointing out that telecommunications is an essential service and reminding NEA of the new government’s aim to provide efficient services through digital means.