The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued regulations for quality of service standards for broadcasting, cable services and cable television in non-CAS areas. It is now mandatory for all cable operators in the country to issue bills and receipts for the services they provide, put in place a complaint handling mechanism and maintain a slew of technical standards, including a six-hour power back-up. The regulations will come into effect from April 1.
TRAI also said that they could initiate legal action against their local cable operators at the district consumer forums if they fail to adhere to the new regulations.
Currently, the Conditional Access System (CAS), where cable TV services are digitalised and customers need a set-top box (STB) to view pay channels, is applicable only in select parts of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, and the whole of Chennai. The rest of India is classified as non-CAS areas. TRAI had earlier issued quality of service regulations for cable operators in CAS areas. The extension of these regulations to all parts of the country implies that customers all over the country can expect a marked improvement in the quality of cable TV services.
TRAI has also said that all cable operators must compulsorily ensure that requests for connection, disconnection and reconnection of cable services must be honoured within a seven-day time frame. Besides, they must also maintain a helpdesk that is functional from 8 am to 8 pm everyday to address complaints of the customers. Cable operators have also been mandated to have provisions in place to support digital decoders and STBs for those customers who want to shift to CAS on a voluntary basis.
There are more than 80 million consumers receiving cable TV services in non-CAS areas, being served by about 60,000 cable operators. So far, no formal regulations for quality of service (QoS) were issued in view of the highly fragmented nature of cable TV sector and because of implementation difficulties at ground level. But, consumers say that regulations may not be of much help as local cable operators are unlikely to adhere to it. Besides, there is no mechanism to check if cable operators implement the orders of TRAI.
While acknowledging that implementation could be an area of concern, TRAI said, “The Authority is aware of the fact that effective enforcement and implementation of any regulation is essential to extend benefits to the consumers. Therefore, the Authority has already written to the State Governments for involving the district administration for enforcement of QoS regulations at the grass root level. Twelve State Governments have so far extended their consent for such proposal. Some of the remaining states are examining it, and responses from others are awaited. Keeping in view the effective implementation of these regulations, the Authority is simultaneously considering the process of delegating powers to the officials of the State Governments as per their consent.”