Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have announced that Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) decision to raise rental charges for the use of electricity poles to extend fiber optic cable would result in increased internet prices.

NEA, on the other hand, claims that it has offered ISPs electricity poles on rent at the lowest possible rate. However, ISPs are in favor of upping internet prices citing increased rent for poles.

Computer Association of Nepal (CAN) Federation and ISPAN have already submitted recommendations to the government about keeping the internet cost at the lowest possible. They blamed that NEA had created a situation where ISPs were forced to increase the monthly internet charges by Rs 150 in urban and Rs 300 in rural areas.

Through a new regulation, NEA has proposed to double the charges on fiber cables stretched along the 66kv transmission lines, making it Rs 32,000 a year without taxes. For fiber optics on 33kv transmission lines, charges will stand at Rs 30,000.

Likewise, NEA has proposed to increase the rental charge for the utility poles to Rs 200 per annum from Rs 50 in the rural areas and Rs 300 from Rs 200 in city areas.

NEA had earlier revised the utility charges in 2018 and planned to hike the charges again in 2019. However, it backtracked from the 2019 decision after widespread criticism. The state-owned power authority has set October 1, Friday as the deadline for ISPs to pay the rental charges as per the increased rates.

“NEA has already published the notice thrice asking us to pay the charges as per the new rates, failing which it has threatened to cut and remove the internet wires from its utility poles,” President of ISPAN, Sudhir Parajuli, said.

“NEA would be responsible for any untoward incident and internet obstruction if wires are cut,” he warned.

Meanwhile, NEA Executive Director Kul Man Ghishing said that the utility charges were increased with the aim to maintain the infrastructural beauty. “NEA wants to promote the sharing of the IT infrastructure so that there would be fewer cables and bigger business. Why don’t ISPs use 96 core cables instead of 24 core cables to facilitate higher bandwidth? The 96 core cables can be shared by multiple companies,” he said.

Ghishing blamed that ISPs installing their cables along each pole had given an ugly look to the city.

According to NEA estimates, about 90 per cent internet cables hanging from the electricity poles are useless. When damaged, the ISPs do not remove the cables and instead stretch a new one to resume the service which has resulted in a mess of entangled cables.

NEA collects a revenue of Rs 250 million to Rs 300 million a year from the utility pole rent. Ghishing claimed that if ISPs shared the cables and other infrastructures, internet charges would go even lower.

“NEA is ready to cooperate and collaborate with the private sector service providers. To clean up the entangled wires, we have created an underground optical fiber infrastructure to transmit internet signals,” said Ghishing. NEA has also created two additional under-ground channels to lay fiber optics if necessary in the future.