KATHMANDU, Jan 22: Though Nepal Telecom Authority (NTA) is drafting a regulation for 'net neutrality', a senior official of the telecommunication sector regulator said that the regulation is not an urgent need.
“There is no urgent need of net neutrality regulation in the country at this time,” said Ananda Raj Khanal, a senior director of NTA and chairman of the committee. “Why would we need a regulation on the topic about which a very few people know?”
“This is not an urgent issue because nobody has died because of it,” said Khanal. “We might not even need a regulation for the issue as far as I have seen. This is because any activity planned by ISPs ultimately needs to be approved by our office”
NTA had earlier formed a committee to draft a report on net neutrality based on discussion with experts. The committee prepared a report based on consultation with information technology (IT) experts, Khanal said. The report is yet to get final shape, he added.
'Net Neutrality' refers to a concept that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat all data on the Internet equally, and not charge differently by user, content, website, or application. It means that the recent 'free Facebook', 'free Twitter', and 'free Wikipedia' schemes of Ncell, an internet giant in the country, were violations of the sentiments of 'Net Neutrality' since they promoted those websites despite the existence of other similar players in the market.
Defending such free schemes, Khanal said: “They are the concerned operators' business matters. One cannot say that a single site was promoted in that case.”
Khanal further added that the scheme of making such sites free or cheaper is okay since many people use them. The official also said that such schemes would not affect other startups of similar type.
Similarly, there is no standard ceiling rate of Internet in the country, according to the NTA. This means operators like Nepal Telecom (NTC) and Ncell, and ISPs like WorldLink or Subisu can charge as much as they choose for data. Variable charges in the names of packs like 'Facebook pack', 'YouTube pack', etc are also violation of 'Net Neutrality' concept since they treat browsing of those sites and other sites differently. Moreover, it biases customers too: those who do not take such Internet packs have to pay more for using those sites.
There are various other ways net neutrality could have been violated in the country. But NTA's reluctance to brainstorm about them has put Nepali Internet users in trouble. The concept of net neutrality is among hot issues in the world. However, authorities here have given little value to it. It is clear that the issue is associated with more than 150 million Internet users in the country.
IT experts in the country have long been demanding for net neutrality policy.
“Net neutrality is about transparency and freedom in the Internet,” said Rajan Raj Panta, an IT specialist. “Concerned authorities should be clear about to what extent Internet needs to be censored as well as free in the country. So, a regulatory policy regarding it is the need of the hour.”
Experts also say that net neutrality policy would control ISPs from abusing Internet for their own benefits.