Trai open forum: mandating CAS only way forward

MUMBAI: Even as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) ended its three-city "open forum" swing, today at a sparsely attended session on CAS, two key points came through. One being that the voluntary introduction of addressability was a nonstarter and if the government was serious, it needed to mandate CAS. The second was that an ombudsman could provide for an improved redressal system.

The session did not cover much by way of new ground and was more a restating of old positions than anything else.A point that came from the consumer side was that "rule making had to be consistent with enforceability". If Trai had no mechanism to enforce the rules it was outlining, the whole exercise would be so much hot air was the message that came through.

To a demand that interoperability was a must if consumer interests were to be safeguarded, Trai chief Pradip Baijal, who chaired the session said, "An affordable interoperable system does not appear possible." Renting the set-top was the only practical proposition in the circumstances, he said, if the issue was that consumers should have the choice of migrating to another system (DTH / broadband) or if there was a geographical shift of location.Another point that came through from the cable side was that Trai's December notification freezing cable rates and the subsequent "clarification" that this did not preclude pay broadcasters from demanding increased connectivity, was patently unfair.

Even as the session winded up, a question from the floor raised a pertinent point. With the new government at the Centre's two main constituents the Congress and the Left having both expressed their opposition to CAS thus far, was there any point in discussing the issue at all. Baijal's response was that both political parties had no problems with addressability per se. Their concern was in the mode of implementation. This was quite clear from the interactions that Trai had had with the state governments in Maharashtra (Congress) and West Bengal (Left Front), he claimed.

Well, nothing that came out of the meeting gave any indications that the concerns of the two parties would be assuaged any time soon.

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