The move by the government to expedite the process of introducing new telecommunication laws with controversial provisions that seek to benefit cellphone giant Ncell has raised concerns. It appears that Ncell is trying to manipulate the existing law, and the government seems to be more than willing to help it do so. This is something that needs to be avoided at all costs. As per the existing Telecommunication Act, 1997, any telecommunication company operating in Nepal with more than 50 percent stakes of foreign investors shall come under the government’s ownership after the expiry of their 25-year operating license. However, the new bill proposed by the government seeks to change this provision, thereby allowing Ncell, which has 80 percent foreign holdings, to extend its operating license while retaining its existing ownership structure against the prevailing laws.
Section 24 of the controversial bill has a provision related to integrated permit, which experts in the communication sector claim is being introduced solely to benefit Ncell. This provision seeks to bring fundamental change to the existing Telecommunication Act, which clearly states that the period of license shall be of 25 years at the maximum. Section 33 of the Act also states that the land, building, plant, equipment and other structures related to the telecommunications service developed with more than fifty percent of its investment by a foreign person or corporate body shall be under the ownership of the government after the expiry of the period of such license.
Therefore, if the bill is passed as it is, there will be a relief to Ncell, which will otherwise come under the government ownership if more than 50 percent shares are not sold to Nepalis in the next six and a half years. This move by the government is seen as a blatant attempt to favor a private sector company at the cost of the country's laws and regulations. Moreover, sources familiar with the move to introduce new provisions in the existing Telecommunication Act say that it is solely aimed at paving the way for Ncell to extend the license period while retaining its existing ownership structure. This is a clear violation of the existing laws and regulations, and it needs to be stopped immediately. It is also concerning that the bill proposed by the telecommunication authority includes a provision for recording individual calls. This provision violates the privacy of individuals, and the rights of the call records are to be given to Ncell, which is unacceptable. If this happens, the rights vested with Nepal Telecom will go to Ncell.
Furthermore, the provision proposed in the Sub-section 3 of Section 27 of the Bill to Amend and Integrate the Laws Related to Telecommunications, 2079 aims to remove the provision that requires Ncell to sell 30 percent of its shares to Nepalis. Ncell has been demanding that this provision be changed, which is unjustified. It is evident that Ncell is trying to manipulate the existing laws and regulations to its advantage, and the government is more than willing to help it do so. This move by the government is a clear violation of the trust of the people of Nepal, and it needs to be avoided at all costs. The government needs to act in the interest of the people of Nepal and not a private sector company.
This move to benefit a private sector company at the expense of the government and the public is unacceptable. The government must not allow any manipulation of the existing laws and should prioritize the interests of the country and its citizens over the interests of a private company. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the telecommunications sector is regulated in a fair and transparent manner, and that the rights of the people are protected. Any attempt to undermine the existing laws or introduce controversial provisions to favor a particular company must be strongly opposed by the public and the media. It is time for the government to take a firm stand against such unethical practices and work towards building a stronger and more transparent regulatory framework for the telecommunications sector.
Therefore, it is essential that the government rethinks its decision to introduce new provisions in the existing Telecommunication Act, 1997 so as to benefit Ncell. The government must act in the interest of the people of Nepal and not a private sector company. The laws and regulations of the country must be upheld, and any attempt to manipulate them must be dealt with severely.