Interconnect agreements mandatory for provision of signals: TRAI

NEW DELHI: Following several cases in this regard before the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today proposed that no signals can be provided to multi system operators (MSOs) or cable operators after the expiry of the Interconnect Agreement.

The draft Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (Digital Addressable Cable Television Systems) (Sixth Amendment) Regulations 2015 says that: "It shall also be mandatory for the broadcaster to enter into written interconnection agreement with the multi system operator for retransmission of the pay channel(s) even if nil subscription fee is charged by the broadcaster or paid by the cable operator."

All stakeholders have been asked to respond with their comments by 20 November with counter-comments by 27 November.

The draft says that it will be mandatory for the service providers to enter into new agreements 21 days prior to the date of expiry of the existing agreement “to ensure that inconvenience is not caused to the consumers by sudden disconnections of signals due to failure of the service providers to enter into new interconnection agreements.”

Furthermore, broadcasters or MSOs, as the case may be, will give notice to the MSO or the linked local cable operator (LCO), as the case may be, to enter into the new agreement 60 days prior to the date of expiry of the existing interconnection agreement.

In case the service providers fail to enter into new interconnection agreement, the MSO or the linked LCO, will have to inform the consumer the disconnection of signals 15 days prior to the date of expiry of the agreement.

TRAI said it had been observed from the Interconnection details submitted by the service providers that signals of TV channels are being provided by several broadcasters to MSOs and MSOs to LCOs even in the absence of interconnection agreement in writing.

This continuation of retransmission of signal without valid interconnection agreement on the pretext of continued mutual negotiations often results into disputes and sometimes abrupt disconnection, which affects the quality of service to the consumers.

Another area of concern brought to the notice of the Authority was regarding the effective date of applicability of new agreements: that is, whether the new agreement shall apply from the date of entering into the new agreement or it shall apply from the date of expiry of earlier agreement. It not only results in complaints but also disputes between service providers.

Therefore, TRAI has reviewed the present regulations, which provide scope for mutual negotiations even after expiry of the agreement has been reviewed so that no signal can be provided after expiry of the interconnection agreement between the service providers.

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