A four-day course on broadband policy and regulation for Nepali participants commences in Nagarkot on the 28th of March. The course is the fourth in the series supported by Ford Foundation, and the first to be held outside India. It is co-organized with the Internet Society Nepal.
The course seeks to enable members of Nepalese civil-society groups (including academics and those from the media) to marshal available research and evidence for effective participation in broadband policy and regulatory processes including interactions with media, thereby facilitating and enriching policy discourse on means of increasing broadband access by the poor.
Five assignments form the centerpiece of the learning activities. We hope that they will contribute to improving the draft National Broadband Policy.
The draft document includes all the so-called best practices related to broadband, but could be improved with elements that consider the ground situation in the country more carefully. Therefore, focus of the assignments are not on the proposals in the draft policy per se, but on their feasibility. This will require the teams to spend more time looking at data and news reports about the ground situation and about the legal and political environment.
1. Assess the likelihood of success of the following elements of the Broadband Policy Draft of the NTA, by assembling evidence on the past performance of the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund (RTDF) (including disbursement efficiency (i.e., what percentage of money was spent within a defined time period) and transparency) and the actual organizational structure of the Fund:
10.4.1 The reach of broadband network and services will be expanded to rural and remote areas by including broadband in universal service/access definition through effective mobilization of Rural Telecommunications Development Fund.
10.4.2 Competitive supply of services beyond district headquarters and urban centers will be encouraged through a modicum of fiscal, policy and regulatory incentive schemes. Along these lines, considerations will be made to license a block of spectrum with a condition to offer free or low-cost service in that would create affordable alternatives for consumers, reducing the burden on RTDF related subsidy arrangements.
2. Assess the likelihood of having three competitive broadband suppliers in urban Nepal, in light of the government’s past track record in introducing competition. In what countries (e.g., United States, Singapore) has this aspiration been achieved? You may wish to pay attention to the technologies that can be deployed to supply broadband service and the associated economics.
8.1.3. Urban broadband users in Nepal will have a choice of at least three broadband suppliers by the end of 2015
3. Please assess the policy provisions below with the actual track record of the NTA with regard to spectrum management.
9.1 Radio frequency spectrum to expand broadband access by means of both mobile and fixed wireless technologies consistent with international standards and best practices will be released. Along these lines, prevailing spectrum management regime in Nepal will be reformed to provide for more transparent and responsive action on frequency allocation, assignment and pricing. Provisions will also be made to make some unlicensed spectrum available for rollout of wireless broadband services to unserved and underserved areas. Availability of adequate spectrum for IMT and IMT Advanced services will be ensured. Also, arrangements will be made to ensure the availability of sufficient microwave spectrum to meet current and future demand for wireless backhaul especially in prime bands below 12 GHz, in addition to higher spectrum bands.
9.4 Roadmap for availability of additional spectrum for every 5 years will be prepared beginning the year 2014.
4. Assess the prospects for e government services being rolled out in Nepal as envisaged in the draft policy. Please make explicit reference to what Nepal has achieved in terms of e government so far and to the UN ranking (see reference list).
10.3.5 Use of broadband services by government agencies will be promoted by formulation of specific programs both at the central as well as local government levels to make electronic transactions, including eGovernment services accessible to citizens and businesses,
10.3.6 Steps will be taken to promote the take-up of electronic transactions and marketing by small and medium sized businesses.
5. Will the provisions of the policy pertaining to content and applications be adequate for this purpose? Which entity within the Nepal Government has the authority to implement them?
10.3.8 Measures will be taken to ensure fair compensation for creators of digital content and the protection of their rights.
10.3.9 Excellence in content development, application development, rural communications development, innovative services and broadband readiness will be publicly recognized through a program of national awards that will attract popular interest and attention.