Nepal: Can Internet Be Shut Down To Mark Protest?

Nepali Internet users were caught in disarray as the Internet Service Provider’s Association of Nepal (ISPAN) shut down its internet service last Sunday 10 April, 2011 from 1pm to 2pm, as a mark of protest against the government's crackdown on ‘illegal VOIP call bypass’.

In a statement ISPAN condemned the Nepal Telecommunications Authority’s (NTA) act of arresting and making false allegations against the Internet Service Providers (ISP) of aiding illegal call bypass operators.


Image by Flickr user Jamarier (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Image by Flickr user Jamarier (CC BY-SA 2.0).

In recent months, the NTA has cracked down on several illegal call bypass rackets, which use VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) via Internet, giving users the opportunity to avoid the heavy fees for such calls charged by licensed voice operators.

The Nepali blogosphere is criticizing the shutting down of Internet and they feel that this is a breach of the Interim Constitution, which is against such obstruction of communication.

Nepali is not impressed with the strike of the ISPs:

There are legitimate reasons to protest, I get it. But who protests against an alleged police wrongdoing when one of your own gets caught commiting a crime? Our ISPs, of course. And the people that again bear the brunt are us – you and I.

The blogger points out:

The right to Internet Service is a fundamental (interim) Constitutional right of a Nepali citizen. Unacceptably violating my rights, the ISPs decided to turn their routers off for an hour this afternoon in Nepal causing me mass anger.

Pradeep Kumar Singh asks how ethical is the Internet outage:

[..] This is INTERNET, How come you have right to stop people access to this network? Internet can break or make things. [..]

Internet may be luxury or even leisure stuff for most of the Nepalis but that doesn’t mean that it’s not taken seriously anymore. Trust me a lot of users consider this a basic need now and by saying that I mean it, “a basic need” in fact taken for granted. After all, Internet is pivotal and crucial for Information these days.

XNepali acknowledges the demand of the ISPs, but opines:

ISPAN demands of safe environment free from fear of unwarranted police action seems a valid demand. But, why are the unsuspecting customers punished for the government action?

Yam Gurung comments on a post in blog My Sansar [np]:

I am not happy the CIB shutting down so called call bypass and arresting ISP peoples. We live in Hong Kong for 15 years. We can make quality and economy calls to our families in Nepal only when so called illegal call bypass is active in Nepal. Since CIB started arresting ISP and raiding VOIP centres calling Nepal have become tremendously expensive for Nepalese living abroad.

I request NTA and CIB to let illegal VOIP operate until Nepal Telecom reduce its rates and expand its network capacity so that call gets connected each time. Please help us to get connected with our families living in remote places where there is no other communication.

ISPAN has called off their protest program after the Nepal Telecommunications Authority had committed to investigate about the VOIP issue.


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