ISPAN launches protest program

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April 8, 2011, Kathmandu. ISPAN launched its protest by submitting a memorandum to the regulator – Nepal Telecommunications Authority. For the last few months, the directors and staff of ISPs are being held in custody and taken to court when a customer of a respective ISP has been identified to be operating illegal call bypass. ISPAN condemns such act of misuse of authority by concerned authorities. This has adversely affected the daily operation of ISPs and has created fearful environment over job security and investment to expand the services. As part of its protest program, member ISPs will disrupt Internet services from 1pm to 2pm on Sunday April 10, 2011.
 
Frequently Asked Questions
ISPAN has had several interactions with Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), the Ministry of Information Communications and Nepal Police in the presence of the Home Ministry. During all these interactions, we were assured that the police would end their unwarranted action against ISPs. The police had committed that they would not hold an ISP liable for providing Internet connection to a customer that misuses the service. The ISPs have been fully cooperating with any police investigation by providing all requested information requested through NTA. However, the threat of police action still remains. In the course of investigating a recent case of call bypass recently busted, the Crime Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police has issued instructions to apprehend the directors and employees of two prominent ISPs.

We simply want a safe environment free from the fear of unwarranted police action to conduct our business and provide the services that we have been licensed to provide. If an ISP is found to be involved in call bypass, we are not against police action. However, an ISP cannot be subjected to police action and harassment simply for providing the Internet connection. We ask that the NTA, Nepal Police, Home Ministry and the Ministry of Information and Communication jointly commit to our demands in writing, and ensure that the past police activities against ISPs are never repeated.
 
What is the nature of the protest program?
ISPAN has already submitted a memorandum to NTA on April 8, 2011. Starting from Sunday April 10, 2011, all member ISPs of ISPAN will launch a protest program until our legitimate demands are met. The protest program will start with disruption of Internet services from 1pm to 2pm, and increase every day thereafter. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this will cause to Internet users, but we ask that you understand this extreme step as it is a matter of our existence.
 
How can Internet users help? 
You can help by participating in this protest program on Facebook .
 
What is Call Bypass?
All international voice calls to Nepal must be transported into the country by one of the licensed voice operators (such as NTC, Ncell, UTL, etc). The licensed voice operator “imports” the call and terminates it to the intended call recipient. For this, the local voice operator charges a hefty fee to the international voice operator (such as AT&T, PCCW, TATA, etc). This fee ranges from USD0.09 to 0.12. This high fee creates an opportunity for an illegal entity in Nepal to import the call (using the Internet) and terminating it to the intended call recipient (using SIM cards from mobile operators in Nepal). This is referred to as illegal call bypass. The cost of terminating the call in this way is much lower than the fee charged by the local voice operators for terminating the same call. Hence, illegal call bypass can be highly profitable.
 
Is this why I see a local number when my cousin calls from overseas?
Yes. The call is coming through illegal call bypass. This is also the reason why it is cheaper to call Nepal.
If it is cheaper to call Nepal due to illegal call bypass, why is it bad?
Because it hurts the profit of large voice operators in Nepal and robs the government of resulting tax revenue.
 
Why are ISPs being held liable for such illegal activities?
The police have been mistakenly led to believe (by the voice operators) that ISPs can detect or tell when a customer uses the Internet for illegal call bypass. Hence, they believe that call bypass is happening with the consent and full knowledge of ISPs. ISPAN has made it clear that ISPs will not provide Internet connection knowingly to those involved in illegal activities. However, ISPs cannot be held liable if a customer ends up misusing the Internet connection in any way. Further, it is impossible to reliably detect if an Internet connection is being misused by the customer.