TRAI acts tough about DAS; moves court against cable TV ops

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is flexing its muscles. The telco regulator has taken about a dozen cable operators to a Delhi court for not providing details of subscribers of set-top boxes (STBs) to multi-system operators (MSO) which is necessary to ensure accountability in digitisation of cable TV services.

The regulator has filed a complaint before chief metropolitan magistrate Vidya Prakash, saying that cable TV operators have not been complying with its regulations relating the government mandated digital addressable system (DAS). Under this, cable ops are supposed to attach a set top box to TV sets of their subscribers. And they have to provide customer details along with their choice of services, choice of channels and bouquets. But they have not been forwarding these to the MSO, the TV signals of which they are delivering to their subscribers. TRAI had ordered this to be the norm to ensure transparency and acccountability.

The regulator had in May 2012 issued its standards of quality of services (Qos) which provides for connection, disconnection, transfer, shifting of the cable TV services, procedure for handling subscribers complaints and redressal, for obtaining/ supplying STBs, changing the position of channels, payment of bills and responsibilities of cable operators and MSOs for ensuring quality of service at the subscriber level.

According to the QoS, cable ops had to mandatorily provide consumer information. But when it was getting updates about the spread of digitisation in phase I in the four metros, it discovered that some linked cable ops were shying away from providing relevant consumer details like total number of STBs seeded and operationalised, their choice of channels, bouquets and about subscribers. The TRAI also disclosed that the cable ops have failed to comply with its notices.

Small cable ops have been having run-ins with the TRAI from time to time, fearing future survival in a scenario where the MSO ends up building a direct relationship with their subscribers.

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