HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: The growing number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country means that internet users have a whole lot of choices.
Along with the Nepal Telecom Corporation (NTC) run ADSL internet service, dozens of ISPs sprung up after the first private ISP, Mercantile, was set up in 1994.
However, the quality of services provided by these ISPs leave much to be desired. Customers complain that in spite of competition among private ISPs, the prices have not come down considerably. Internet users also complain of problems such as slow
internet speed, frequent disruptions and error in connection. ISPs, in turn, blame these on lack of manpower resulting from frequent strikes, road constructions and natural obstructions like storms and rainfall.
Guna Keshari Pradhan, co-spokes-person of NTC, says, “Internet users can state their problems through the phone or in person at the nearest NTC office. The most common complaint is of slow or disrupted internet, which is caused by tumultuous storms or rain.” Agreeing that ongoing political instability has also affected ISPs, Pradhan says, “The political unrest that causes frequent strikes has affected the ADSL service maintenance department, rendering us helpless and unable to reach clients and solve their problems. Another difficulty is that clients forget to pay their monthly charge and complain about the service without realising it.” According to her, the system problems of ADSL and other minor errors can be solved promptly, even over the phone. However, for other problems, their technicians have to visit the site, which might take a day or longer.
Clarifying on the competition
between different ISPs, Pradhan says, “Clients now have the luxury to choose among various speed and price packages. However, we provide 24 hours quality internet at Rs 900 per month, which is a challenge to the private players. Compared to previous years, the price is quite reasonable.” NTC started its ADSL service in 2008, and according to its data, it has 83,646 subscribers in 75 districts of the country.
Meanwhile, established 16 years ago, WorldLink Communications Pvt Ltd reportedly has around 20,000 clients in 58 districts availing its packages that cost from Rs 645 to Rs 11,092. Prabin Shrestha, marketing manager of the company, says, “The continuous bandhs have severely affected us, as the absence of regular technical staffs makes it
difficult to offer timely service and maintenance.” According to him, during bandhs it is impossible to go on field visits and solve the problems, although they do offer phone support system in minor cases.
Disagreeing about the internet charge being expensive, Shrestha says, “The
average package of WorldLink costs Rs 8,500 per year, which is cheaper than the annual subscription rates of cable TVs.” Explaining about client complaints, he says, “Clients who have just begun using the internet have less knowledge about the service, devices and its operation, so they complain when they are unable to figure it out. The second group of
customers complains of being disconnected, while other complaints are from clients who cannot be offered maintenance services due to the strikes.”
According to him, the company uses heat protecting devices and weather-proof equipments, so as to avoid disturbances caused by natural changes. Shrestha adds, “The ongoing road construction is also behind disruption in internet services. Although we are positive about the road widening, problems are caused when wires are unknowingly tampered with or cut off by the construction workers.”
However, Dr Bhai Kaji Tiwari, district controller of Kathmandu Valley Road Construction Authority, disagrees that road construction is the root cause behind internet problems. He says, “ISPs should cooperate with our mission and stop blaming us for their faulty services.” According to him, ISPs were disfiguring the city with their wires and creating a nuisance under the guise of providing service. “It was due to this unsystematic wire placement that their services were halted while we carried out our project. So who is to blame for this?” he asks.