Cable TV

MCOF to meet MSOs to discuss billing issues

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MUMBAI: The easier a process becomes, the better it is. It seems this is the process that Maharashtra Cable Operators’ Foundation (MCOF) has opted for in order to make the entire digitisation process a smooth ride. In a new initiative, the apex body of cable operators in Maharashtra has sent a letter to all the MSOs inviting them to a meeting where they would discuss about the proper implementation of digitisation.

In the letter, of which Indiantelevision.com has a copy, the MSOs have been requested to schedule the meeting in the coming week.

When both the parties meet, they are expected to discuss issues related to: interconnect agreement, billing, Consumer Application Form (CAF), package activation, a la carte channels choice, disconnection of set top boxes (STBs) without notice, misleading and false  information given about the LMO to the customer over call center, ownership of STB and uniform rates.

We are making an effort from our side to meet each MSO separately, says Arvind Prabhoo

The letter has come out a day after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) gave the MSOs the final deadline of 15 December to submit the duly filled CAFs and also implement gross billing by December.  “CAF is not the only issue, there are issues related to service tax and billing,” says MCOF president Arvind Prabhoo.  “There is no clarity on whether the consumers will be billed on the service provided by the MSO or on the MRP of the package that the subscriber opts for,” he adds.

The meeting has been called to discuss the issues concerning both the MSOs and the LMOs.

“We are making an effort from our side to meet each MSO separately. In the meeting, we will try and understand the system of billing devised by the MSO and make suggestions, if required. If not, we will go hand-in-hand with MSOs, provided our legal status is maintained,” informs Prabhoo.

The apex body which comprises more than 1500 LMOs is also unsure about the settlement mechanism between the MSO and the LMO once the billing is done. “The MSOs so far haven’t spoken to the LMOs on how they will pay the LMO for the customer it bills,” points out Prabhoo.

Expressing concern on the 15 December deadline set for submitting CAFs, Prabhoo says, “If 50 per cent CAFs have been filled in one year on an average, how does TRAI expect the remaining 50 per cent to be filled in next three weeks? Also, with the holiday season coming in, is TRAI looking at switching off STBs, if the deadline is not met?”

With TRAI pushing MSOs to start gross billing from December, Prabhoo comments, “The issue relating to entertainment tax is subjudiced. So when the MSO says it will start gross billing from next month, is it looking at levying entertainment tax as well?”

It should also be noted that the Nasik Cable Operators Association has moved the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on billing. While TRAI was supposed to respond to it on 22 November, the tribunal has granted time till 23 January to the regulator to respond. “So when both entertainment tax and billing is subjudiced, why is TRAI pushing cable operators for contempt of court?” he questions.

On the issue of TRAI asking the MSOs to either convince the LMOs to start billing or do it themselves, Prabhoo sternly says, “They can do it, if they want. We are not going to be delivery boys. We are owners of our own businesses. And we have the right to bill our own consumers and that is what we are fighting for.”

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