MoIC stumbles upon high-level panel after 13 years of its fromation

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- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Jan 28, 2017-

In Nepal, much happens in paper. This has been established once again as the government has just come to know about formation of a high-level committee to monitor the country’s telecommunications sector. 

That committee was formed 13 years ago. But it held its first meeting this week.

The Telecommunication Policy introduced in 2004 had incorporated a provision to establish a monitoring and review committee to coordinate and monitor implementation of the policy within six months of introduction of the document.

In the span of 13 years, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) has seen a number of ministers and secretaries steering the body. But it took almost one-and-a-half decades for the ministry to become aware about the provision in the policy and hold a meeting. 

As per the Policy, the committee should be headed by the minister or state minister for MoIC. The committee also comprises members of the National Planning Commission, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), High Level Commission for Information Technology and Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), among others, as members. 

Asked about the delay in holding the meeting, the MoIC Spokesperson Ram Chandra Dhakal said: “The policy had envisioned a meeting within first six months. Nobody knows why it didn’t happen for this long.” 

In a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislative Parliament MoIC Secretary Mahendra Man Gurung too stated he was unaware about presence of such a committee and he came to know about it only after going through the policy.

“This shows while technology has continuously evolved, we have failed to enact appropriate acts and policies on time to support the technological advancement,” Gurung said.  

According to an MoIC source, frequent change of ministers 

as well as their reluctance 

has played a key role in 

preventing the meeting from happening so far. 

Dhakal, however, said that the committee finally met this week and continuity would be given to this practice. 

On Tuesday, the first meeting chaired by Minister Surendra Kumar Karki took a number of decisions. As per the statement issued by the MoIC, the meeting has decided to amend Interconnection Guideline 2008 and implement it. 

As per the guideline, interconnection of networks should be on an equitable and non-discriminatory basis, allowing consumers of one network to establish connection with clients of another network without facing any problem. 

Leading telecom service providers Nepal Telecom and Ncell have often been told by the regulator to resolve problems related to interconnection, as consumers time and again face problems while making calls from one network to the other.

The meeting has also decided to look into foul plays, like fixation of tariff to promote anti-competitive practices and misuse of information about rival companies. 

Likewise, the meeting has also decided to make an arrangement wherein service providers will have to take consent from the regulator before making any alterations in the share holding structure. The meeting has also decided to improve the quality of telecommunications services and introduce a provision to compensate consumers receiving poor quality of telecommunications service.

Acknowledging that the information and communications sector has advanced rapidly, the meeting also decided to recommend the MoIC to make appropriate amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the Policy, as “some of the provisions have now become irrelevant”.

NTA Chairman Digambar Jha told the Post that most of the decisions made by the committee have already come into implementation or are in the process of being implemented. 

“We have been constantly working on these issues,” Jha said, adding issues like penalising service providers that are providing poor quality of service should be addressed by making amendments to the act and policy. 

The government had made an unsuccessful attempt to amend the Telecommunications Act in the year 2008.

Published: 28-01-2017 08:36

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