Kathmandu, May 12

The telecommunications sector regulator — Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) — has finally started the process to introduce regulatory provisions on ‘net neutrality’ in the domestic telecommunications industry.

In the lack of any legal provisions regarding ‘net neutrality’ in Nepal, telecom service providers in the country have been found to be violating its principles in recent times.

Net neutrality refers to the international practice in telecommunications sector adopted by many countries that disallows telecom companies or internet service providers to prioritise a particular site or services in their network. As per this principle, service providers should give consumers equal access to all contents without favouring any particular one.

“The principles of net neutrality have been acknowledged by many countries across the world and Nepal too is obliged to adopt it,” Digambar Jha, chairman of NTA, said, adding that the authority has begun consultation works with experts and stakeholders prior to introducing the regulatory frameworks to guide the principles of net neutrality.

Stating that telecom operators like Ncell and Nepal Telecom are undoubtedly violating net neutrality of late, Jha said that NTA will curb such violations in the near future.

Meanwhile, Jha also informed that NTA is holding a meeting with experts from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to discuss the issues related to net neutrality and regulatory frameworks.

TRAI had banned telecom companies in India from introducing differential pricing for data services in February last year by launching a new regulation on net neutrality. Moreover, Facebook was prohibited to deliver free access to a selected number of web services through Facebook’s ‘Free Basics’ service in India following wide criticism from net neutrality proponents.

As per NTA Director Ananda Raj Khanal, a separate committee has been formed at NTA to deal with the issue of net neutrality in Nepal and formulate required regulatory framework.

As the competition between telecom companies has heated up, major telecom operators like Nepal Telecom and Ncell have been found to be violating net neutrality in the past few months.

In the name of consumer-centric schemes, they have been repeatedly favouring a particular content over others within their service network.

For instance, Ncell signed an agreement with Facebook in February offering its subscribers free access to limited Facebook activities. This is gross violation of the net neutrality concept because in doing so, Ncell is promoting a particular application — Facebook.

Similarly, Nepal Telecom has also been introducing various packages for its customers that intend to promote only one particular site or application. The company earlier had launched different YouTube data packages targeting Mahashivaratri and Holi festivals.

However, telecom companies have been saying that though it would seem their schemes are promoting one particular application or site, the packages are based on the demand of the consumers. “We will introduce such schemes for other applications and sites in the future after studying the subscribers’ demand,” said one NT official, requesting anonymity.