WB UDM Firhad Hakim pleads TRAI to extend deadline for CAFs

KOLKATA: First it was Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari who appealed to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to delay implementation of ad cap for news channels till the completion of digitisation, and now it is the West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim who has appealed to the regulator to extend the deadline for customer application forms (CAFs) submission.

Firhad Hakim has appealed to the regulator to extend the deadline for implementation of SMS rollout

The request has come after TRAI confirmed last week that it will strictly adhere to the 23 August cut-off-date. “If subscriber details including channel preference is not done within this deadline, the operator’s connection is liable to be disconnected,” informed TRAI member R K Arnold.

“After interacting with both the local cable operators (LCOs) and multi system operators (MSOs) at the ground level, we found that most of them are not aware about the registration work which they are mandated to do. TRAI before taking such decisions must spread awareness. I have spoken to the chief secretary to extend the deadline,” said Hakim exclusively to today.

Hakim also said that TRAI must have an elaborate publicity campaign to inform the operators on the procedures involved. “How can TRAI ask the operators to disconnect its services without updating the operators about the whole process of CAFs,” he questions.

Cable Operators Digitalisation Committee of the Association of Cable Operators convener Swapan Chowdhury informed, “So far only 30-35 per cent of cable consumers in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area have completed the form. It is not possible to meet the 23 August deadline.”

TRAI officials who were in Kolkata last week said, “If not done within the set deadline, we will take action according to law,” said Arnold.

Kolkata remains to be the last metro where DAS is yet to be implemented. Manthan Broadband Services director Sudip Ghosh when contacted said, “We will abide by the law and we are working towards meeting the deadline day and night.”

While Hathway Cable managing director and CEO Jagdish Kumar G Pillai said the company is focused towards meeting the deadline.

A MSO on the condition of anonymity said, “In the digitisation process, installation of set top boxes and offering of the channels account to more than 85-90 per cent of the work and remaining 10 per cent is clerical job which is letting the consumers to choose the channels. The LCOs have all the details of the customers, and now they just need to go and ask the customers to choose the package they want to go for. All this process will hardly take 10 minutes.”

Can the cable operators breathe a sigh of relief after the appeal made by Hakim for the extension of deadline? Doesn’t seem like it is too easy to please TRAI, but they can only hope.

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