Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Crackdown riles ISPs



HORROR: NTA sent a letter this week to ISPs, warning of stiff punishment if they didn't fulfill conditions for operation that include filtering pornographic and 'horror' content.

The cabinet's new Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), set up last month, has already come under fire for being overzealous, and violating constitutionally guaranteed privacy laws in going after Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The new 'FBI-style' unit was set up by the government two weeks ago in response to a nationwide rise in abductions, financial scams, cyber-crime and call-bypass syndicates. The high-powered and well-resourced force works under the direct control of the chief of police and is designed to act immediately to counter organised crime.

However, by targeting Nepal's ISPs, the CBI has stirred a hornet's nest among IT companies, constitutional lawyers and consumer advocacy groups, who say the unit is overstepping its bounds.

Sirish Karmacharya of the internet provider Namche was arrested this week and jailed for having provided bandwidth to customers who were allegedly using it to bypass calls. Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) sent a letter this week to ISPs, warning of stiff punishment if they didn't fulfill conditions for operation that include filtering pornographic and 'horror' content. NTA wants material that 'incites racial and religious hatred' and is against the 'national interest' filtered.

"The conditions are too broad and ISPs can't be held responsible for what the subscribers use the internet for, it's their private business," explains Binay Bohara of the ISP Association. "In any case, filtering content is very expensive, cumbersome and difficult."

Constitutional lawyer Satish Kharel goes a step further and says NTA's conditions for use also violate the constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy. "Only parliament can pass laws restricting fundamental freedoms, it can't be done by NTA or the police," Kharel says. "This is an infringement of the constitution and also goes against the right to privacy under international human rights instruments to which Nepal is a signatory."

Kharel, who specialises in telecommunications, says if the government is serious about going after those misusing Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), it should investigate the real culprits and not those who are simply selling the connection.

KIRAN PANDAY
Following the NTA directives to the letter would effectively shut down YouTube, Facebook, popular Nepali portals like cybersansar.com, mysansar.com, and even nepalitimes.com, because some of the comments in the feedback section could be construed to be objectionable.

Minister of Information and Communication, Shankar Pokharel, said the government was losing billions in international call-bypass and was forced to act against operators with VOIP. "The state needs information on who is using excessive bandwidth at all times of the day, without this data it is difficult to catch the culprits," Pokharel told Nepali Times. "All we are asking is for the ISPs to pass on this information."

The police say they have been handicapped by their inability to access mobile phone and internet usage data in going after criminals. DIG Arjun Singh Bhandari says, "Our main concern is to ban VOIP calls as it becomes difficult to trace criminal activities, and organised crimes have been carried out using VOIP. We have requested ISPs to help us in our investigation."

But Karmacharya's arrest and the fact that he has been presumed guilty until proven innocent has sent shockwaves through the ISP community, and lawyers are aghast at the lack of due process in the case. This has led to suspicion that the police are themselves involved in extorting ISPs. "It now seems to be our turn to be milked," said one cyber cafť owner in Thamel.

Kunda Dixit


Internet shutdown?

Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who met the home and information ministers Thursday morning, said both blamed them for complicity in the call-bypass scam. ISPs say they can't run a business with the threat of arrest at any time and may collectively return their licenses. This would potentially paralyse internet services in Nepal.
ISPs say the new law holds them liable if an illegal VOIP operator is using its bandwidth without the knowledge of the service provider. Said one ISP owner: "The police want us to tell them about excessive use, but what is excessive use? Who defines it? There are hundreds of legitimate individuals and businesses who use more than 1MB, do we report all of them?"

Nepal's 49 ISPs have already blocked scores of pornographic sites under instruction from the police in the past month, and they say they can block other sites as well. But they can't be filtering everything because it is impossible, especially since the definition of what is deemed 'anti-national' and 'inciting racial hatred' is so broad.
Says the ISP Association's Binay Bohara: "If they tell us what to block we will block, but we can't accept this blanket blame."

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1. Sameer Pradhan
For every problem there is a solution - so if NTA legalized VOIP which is actually the reason for all this filtering nuisance then all is well.


2. Bibek Paudel
I must say that this is one of the most informed, balanced and critical write-up on tech matters ever seen on Nepali media. Not only does it provide a summary of events, but also manages to address other issues like privacy and technicalities, which have hardly ever been touched upon by the so-called big media houses of the country.

Thumbs up to Kunda Dixit for taking time to write this. Your versatility, vigilance and the journalistic energy is so very inspiring and commendable.

I am just so amazed. Thanks


3. kabulekanchho
Nepali CBI,..can not we think of some thing more original than what our southern neighbor's already have? Pradhikaran, CBI, Aayal Nigam etc. are all testament of our creative bankruptcy. We slur our much more advanced southern neighbor with every curse possible (we have learned and perfected this art from Pakistan, I guess) but when it comes to establishing institutions, starting from naming we know nothing except to copy and paste blindly whatever they have there. After CBI, may be we will have a Nepali RAW? 


4. Rajen Gurung
I agree with Sameer Pradhan's comment.  Call bypass exists because the rate charged by telecom operators in Nepal for incoming international calls is absurdly high.  Their total cost cannot be more than 2 US cents, but they charge more than 10 cents to international providers.  Generating profit is the primary motive of a company, but what they are doing (and what NTA is allowing them to do), is a robbery, and should be punished.

The minister's claim that the government is loosing billions also doesn't fly.  That volume of call wouldn't have been there if Nepalis abroad had to pay more than 15 US cents per minute to call home.   They call more and talk longer because of the lower rates made possible by VoIP.

So, who suffers?  The Nepali people.  Those hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters who toil in the oppressive heat of the Gulf and Malaysia.  This means they cannot afford to call their families more often and talk longer. 

Also it means now more of their sweat money will go to telecom operators overseas and in Nepal (and back overseas through NCell and UTL).  Surely this will lead to a slight dip in remittances.

I suggest the government first find out the cause of the problem and remedy that.  It is doing a great disservice to the millions working abroad and sustaining our economy.

NTA better start fulfilling its primary objective -- which is to look after the interests of Nepali consumers of communication services (including those living/working overseas.)


5. SMS
That the government plans to shut down websites is ridiculous. To put it bluntly, the government is not respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Nepal is a signatory. The people have access to the internet and they should be given the rights to access whatever they want to as long as it harms no one. In this respect, one pretext carries the tag of "anti-national" which is just too vague. Good has bad in it and internet is also home to evil which doesn't give the government any right to deprive people from getting access to the content that they desire. No big country has banned websites under flimsy pretexts, so it does not suit such a small country like Nepal to put radical communist ideas to implementation (Think of North Korea). Does the government resent development?   

6. Davus
Skype has done this for years, these are software driven telecommunications devices using your head set and mic.
Google has recently add the service for free
http://www.google.com/chat/voice/

Is Skype and google phones now banned in Nepal?


7. Ramesh Nepal
I'm not a lawyer, but doesn't this violate the article 43 of The Electronic Transactions Act, 2063 (2008) (http://hlcit.gov.np/cmsimages/file/download/electronic-transaction-act.pdf)?


8. Anonymous
Instead of putting such unlawful and straight orders that would for sure make the IT sector in Nepal bear a huge loss I think that the Government along with the authorities should invest more in finding solutions. They should think over of following models of other nations who have benefited regulating such laws in a way that doesn't bear any harm, to anyone involved yet helps achieve the interest. Filtering the content of internet usage, I don't think that we even have the infrastructure at our hand, and evolution will ultimately lead to discovery of ways to defy such restrictions. We are not talking of filtering some contents on So/Ho environment. Volume of internet usage is increasing daily. If authorities are concerned over the social impact, the availability of such resources, they should think of mediums other than internet that are being used. Even a minor can go and get any DVD/CD from a video parlor. Minors are allowed at theaters that are showing movies that can be considered ill for them. I think, there are ways by which all these can be regulated if the government takes initiative to look further, study and then act over rather following the "Na rahancha baas, na bajcha baasuri" that would only degrade the development and the level of service currently being provided. 

9. nepalibabu
Coup for Internet users.

There is much more important to do here in Nepal than harassing and threating ISP's . The direct Internet service impact for nepalese people.
No water, no electricity, no employment, no service,
no Internet, no education...

What can we do here in Nepal ? Politics ?..


10. utsav
There are 49 ISPs in Nepal? That's news to me! I thought we could count the number of ISPs on my fingers. Why is internet still expensive if there are 49 companies competing for the same customer base? Are they competing at all? Some seem to be content with the moolah brought in by VOIP.
 




11. lina Pradhan
Why this so called DIG's from CBI listen and follow a company called Nepal Telecom who makes money by cheating and robbing our hardworking nepali citizens living abroad by charging 100's times more than ususal price. The usual price of international termination to Nepal should be USD 0.005 - .01 cent per minute.while they are charging USD 14 cents/mt which becomes 1400 ( one thousand four hundred) times more to all our nepali people who work hard in 50 degree celcius temprature in the middle east and Malaysia and send remittance to Nepal. NT (Nepal Telecom) pay mere a few percent tax and claim they are the most big tax payer by robbing our own citizens.

The people do illegal VOIP because there is a big difference between NT's termination rate and actual rate. Still in the mean time due to them our people abroad can afford to call their family as they provide it very cheap and good quality calls compared to NT. Actually the CBI should work to break this NT's monopoly by opening unlimited VOIP terminations licences fo the companies who want to do it. This will bring all present illegal VOIP teminations under law and country will get revenue as well.

Regarding security, pornographic content and horror materials in WWW they should define all properly before sending letters to block websites. But ISP's cannot block all as they have to safeguard their customers right too. It is the crime to read or see a pornographic or horror website for a adult in privacy. Pornographic websites have educational matters too.

I hope our government and its CBI will study and make good decisions in future rather and threating ISP's who have invested millions and paying considerable taxes to government.


12. who cares
is this the reason sites have been deleting my comments?

there are many who use abusive words for no reason, on anyone, but you people do not delete those who support royal ashes or maoist but delete of those who supports nation.... dont think just because we are nationalist and alone, we are weak. 


actually, those media who do not respect others freedom of speech should be punished.



today govt. is becoming no different from gynandra govt. 


13. Kenji
This is typical of the bajes running the parties and exerting their influence on the ministries.  Instead of advancing initiatives to add fiber optic connections to India and spread high speed networking throughout Nepal, so call centres and other VOIP-based industries can flourish and provide employment opportunities for Nepal's millions of young people, they allow the new CBI to harass ISPs and VOIP call bypass centres so their cronies at NTC and elsewhere in government can continue to benefit from the status quo.  I'm sure they don't have a clue how much a modern economy depends on the cheap and easy flow of information.

14. jange
4. Rajen Gurung

NTA better start fulfilling its primary objective -- which is to look after the interests of Nepali consumers of communication services (including those living/working overseas.)

The ISPs should sue the NTA for not carrying out its obligations or exceeding its mandate.




15. Prakash Manandhar
A agree with Rajen's comments and also commend Kunda Dixit for bringing this issue to light.

16. Jay
I am sure there are plenty of serious problems in Nepal that the CBI can put its limited resources into, other than tackling VOIP and pornography.  I don't know how illegal use of internet bandwidth leads to rampant lawlessness in Nepal.  The country would be much better off if CBI tackles more consequential problems that have led to the degradation of the Nepali society caused by widespread lawlessness.

17. Anil Pandit
This just proves that Nepal hasn't still got freedom. We all agree that in the eyes of justice each individual is innocent unless proved otherwise. If we live in free society ruled by law and justice, how can a police arrest anyone without warrant from a neutral judge. If a police department and the government were to make a decision on their own discretion, I am afraid that we are living in a police state. I just take this opportunity to highlight that how government interventions actually ruins the free market, competition and services, an example demonstrated by ISPs ordeal.
In my opinion, we should file a law suit in supreme court against government and police department for this unconstitutional act. Filing law suit will establish very healthy precedent of making judiciary system of Nepal more reliable, trusth-worthy and will set a path for future generations.......


18. K. K. Sharma

Is all this drama, actually the result of the inability and  incapacity of  NTA to compete in a free market situation. ? It looks like it.         


19. P Nepal
Without NT and other Telcos reducing their termination rates and monitoring the usage of their pre-paid SIM cards, or opening up  voice termination to other players (like out bound voice services) , it is simply not possible to control illegal bypass operations. Simply blaming and penalizing the ISPs is not going to solve anything. The NTA and Police know this (and admit this is private)! So why are the ISPs made victims????

NTA issuing directives to ISPs to block all offensive sites is incredibly  silly. Are they aware that if the ISPs were to follow their directives, almost ALL popular sites would have to be blocked. Why not make the Internet illegal and stop all access. 


20. Janta

I think it is not right to block all websites....i think it is rule made by old officers in power.....and doing what they feel right

BUT

i think we must not forget that most of the isp of Nepal are also cheaters.They cheat people and make people pay very high cost.They use to charge people around 4000 for same internet they are charging around 1500...so before adsl came...they were looting people...and still ...too many promises...poor sevices....and from outside showing other thing but in reality doing voip business...

i think voip can bring the cost down...

but having same that isp are also not clean...IT IS because of ISP's internet has not developed to the extent that it should have.....curtailing going on... in some country 2mbs net is fundamental right...but in nepal...

isp were even against starting of ADSL ....so ...all cheaters...



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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