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Nepal may introduce net neutrality regulations, consulting with TRAI

Nepal will soon be defining net neutrality when issuing licenses to telecom providers, the Himalayan Times reports. This makes the Nepal Telecom Authority the second regulator in south Asia that is taking action to enforce net neutrality rules, which are aimed at preventing discrimination in how ISPs deliver and price Internet traffic.

The first regulator was TRAI, which has prohibited data tariffs that are discriminatory. TRAI has also issued recommendations to prevent speed-based discrimination. These recommendations are pending at the telecom department. Nepal’s NTA is consulting with TRAI to finalize the policy.

Net neutrality in Nepal

Nepal does not have rules to protect net neutrality, and in January the NTA said that it wasn’t a pressing problem. However, discriminatory pricing of data tariffs is practiced in Nepal. Ncell, for instance, has tariffs that provide Facebook for free. While it also has “streaming packs”, it’s unclear whether those are limited to the services Ncell mentioned, or are free-for-all in the limited time period for which they operate. Nepal has only two large telcos, one of them state-owned, and data prices are generally higher than India’s.

Since zero-rating — which is essentially what is happening with Ncell’s tariffs — has been prohibited for well over two years now, that’s an obvious starting place for TRAI and the NTA to trade information on. The Nepali authority will soon make the regulation public, Min Prasad Aryal, a spokesperson for the NTA told reporters. It’s unclear if they’ll hold a public consultation, as is usual TRAI practice.

Net neutrality updates

— TRAI and the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications recently signed a memorandum of understanding to trade information on net neutrality, including on how to detect and measure violations.

— The US has rolled back its net neutrality protections, even as activists and state legislatures brought up legal challenges and signed state-specific laws to protect net neutrality.

— As per the draft National Digital Communications Policy, net neutrality is one of the seven goals for the government to achieve by 2022. More here.

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