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Upscale hotels may have to pay more for pay channels

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MUMBAI: If an order issued today by the sector regulator gets implemented, pay broadcasters will now be able to charge "market rates" to more upscale hotels and big commercial establishments that access their channels.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has identified "hotels with ratings of 3 Star and above, heritage hotels and commercial establishments providing board and lodging and having 50 or more rooms" as falling within the category that "may not need tariff protection."

The regulator has grouped the rest of commercial establishments into the residual category and decreed that the same rules that govern ordinary cable subscribers will apply to them also, both in CAS and non-CAS areas.

The Trai order has decreed that: "For commercial subscribers falling in the first category, there will be no ceiling on pay channel tariff. However, in order to ensure that the choice of individual channels is made available to these subscribers also in CAS areas, the draft amendment order has provisions for commercial subscribers falling in the first category in the form of mandatory offer of channels on a la carte basis with restrictions on the maximum retail prices of individual channel in relation to the prices of bouquets. The tariff for supply of set top boxes is also proposed to be regulated on similar lines."

Trai issued the order after the Supreme Court agreed with its argument that in order to ensure an orderly growth of the telecom sector in the country, it was necessary to have differential tariffs for commercial and non-commercial subscribers of conditional access system (CAS).

Trai's submission was in response to a petition filed by the Association of Hotels and Restaurants, which challenged an order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that upheld the dual rates.

Trai has placed the draft Tariff Orders, both for CAS notified areas and non-CAS areas, along with a letter to stakeholders inviting comments by 10 November.

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