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CAS only after price, technology concerns are addressed: Trai chief

21-June-2004
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CAS only after price, technology concerns are addressed: Trai chief

The conditional access system or CAS can be implemented only when consumer concerns and issues of addressibility, pricing and technology are resolved, said Pradip Baijal, chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

At a consumer-industry-regulator interaction facilitated by the Indian Merchants’ Chamber here on Saturday, Baijal said the cable industry has remained unregulated for 15 years and the transition to a regulated regime will have to be managed very carefully.

He met representatives of consumer bodies, multi-system operators (MSOs), broadcasters, telecom service providers and other interested organisations to discuss and receive pointers on policy issues relating to broadcasting and distribution of television channels.

Trai is slated to finalise and submit its recommendations to the information and broadcasting ministry by July 15.

Urging the regulator to use the consumers’ viewpoint as a backdrop for determining policy guidelines, Achintya Mukherjee, honorary joint secretary of Bombay Telephone Users’ Association, proposed mandatory publication of data on costs incurred by service providers.

To ensure transparency in the cost workings of service providers, he said, it was imperative to know whether the end users were being charged for the cost of carriage in addition to the cost of content.

Mukherjee also urged the regulator to look into pricing of a la carte channels and bouquets and also to set up guidelines for the usage of airwaves since it is public property.

Listing out further demands of consumer bodies, Mukherjee said that the consumer must have the practicable option to choose and change the service provider, and to choose and move across delivery platforms such as cable, DTH and broadband without having to pay exit costs.

He also requested that set top boxes be made non proprietary and inter-operational among different service providers. He also requested Trai to set up a practical and effective localised grievances redressal system and to ensure that the quality of service is standardised.

Speaking on behalf of MSOs, Ashok Mansukhani, executive vice president of Hinduja TMT, said that the allegations that cable operators increased subscription charges for consumers arbitrarily was in fact a myth.

Broadcasters had been raising pay channel prices every year, he clarified, adding that such increase in subscription rates has been 1500 per cent in the last five years amounting to 300 per cent per annum.

MSOs pass on only about 25 per cent of this increase to end-users, he said. Explaining the cable charges disparity in different localities, he said that in some areas, old discounted prices were continuing while others had switched to revised prices.

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