Kolkata may bill cable TV consumers from 10 December

KOLKATA: On 29 November,  had reported that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) pushed the deadline for MSOs to submit duly-filled CAFs (Consumer Application Forms) to 15 December, also asking them to implement gross/direct billing by December.

The latest development is that Kolkata is likely to start the billing process from 10 December.

Said Siticable Kolkata director Suresh Sethia: “We have been prepared for a long time but since some MSO's were not ready, we had to wait.  Now, everyone has agreed to bill as per package from 10 November. We will put the bills on the system. The operators will distribute the same to subscribers. The bills will mention amusement tax and service tax components separately.”

If all goes well, Kolkata will end up leading the pack as players in other metros are targeting January, in some cases even the last quarter of the current fiscal to start direct billing.

Popular perception is that direct billing will bring transparency and order into an otherwise largely unorganised business.

Director Manthan Broadband Sudip Ghosh said: “Billing is the first step to inform consumers of the changed ecosystem in a digitised environment.”

However, several MSOs are opposing the process. Sources reveal that though Kolkata has some 30 lakh cable homes, MSOs like DEN and Digicable haven’t even started the package, let alone starting direct billing.

Swapan Chowdhury, convener of the Cable Operators Digitalisation Committee of the Association of Cable Operators, too felt that with DAS not implemented properly in the city, packages not available and technical problems in the software and system used for direct billing, it could be said the government was simply putting pressure on the MSOs to collect taxes easily. “No one is concerned about the operators,” he said.

Apurba Bhattacharya, general secretary, Cable Operators Sangram Committee too opined that everything was a hodge podge in DAS I.

Cable TV analyst Mrinal Chatterjee pointed out that many customers weren’t paying the rentals. “Bill should be introduced. As the central and state government too is losing tax unless the bill is introduced. Some MSOs claim that they are ready with the bill and the backend system needed for it but they are not!” she said.

Media analyst Namit Dave posed a very real question: “At a time when some CAFs are not filled in and customers are unable to see their favourite channels even after opting for the preferred bouquet as offered in the channel package, is the city ready to take on direct billing?”

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