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TRAI asks stakeholders to sign agreements by October 15 in CAS areas

25-August-2006
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TRAI asks stakeholders to sign agreements by October 15 in CAS areas

TRAI has fixed October 15, 2006 as the date by which all broadcasters, MSOs and cable operators have to sign interconnection agreement in the areas where Conditional Access System (CAS) has to be implemented. As per the Delhi High Court order, CAS has to be implemented in the notified areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata by December 31, 2006.

Under the standard interconnection agreement, out of the total revenue generated from pay channels, broadcasters will share 45 per cent, MSOs 30 per cent, and the remaining 25 per cent will be kept by the cable operators. No revenue sharing for basic service tier (Free-to-Air channels) charges and carriage charges have been mandated. The carriage fee will be retained fully by the multi system operators, while the charges for basic tier services will be retained fully by the cable operators.

However, TRAI maintained that the service providers were at a liberty to enter into mutually acceptable interconnection agreements which were different from the standard interconnection agreements.

TRAI held that the objective of having standard interconnection agreements was to ensure that implementation of CAS did not get delayed in case the service providers failed to enter into mutually acceptable interconnection agreements through negotiation within the stipulated time.

If any of the service providers in the CAS areas are not able to arrive at a mutually acceptable interconnection agreement within a time-period specified by the Authority, then they shall be required to enter into interconnection agreements as per the standard interconnection agreements. The term of the agreement has been fixed for a minimum period of 12 months.

The provision to report changes in the number of subscribers within seven days was considered too short by the MSOs, so this has been changed to 21 days.

While the regulator has ordered MSOs to ensure copyright of broadcasters’ software, it has maintained that it does not apply to subscribers having Set Top Boxes (STBs) in their houses which have the capacity to record and play back programmes. In such cases, TRAI held that MSOs couldn’t monitor what the subscriber did with the content and hence, could not be made liable.

In another interesting case, the regulator refused to rephrase Clause 4.4.6(g) regarding piracy. Some stakeholders had asked to allow a subscriber to have a single STB for more than one TV set that he might have at his home. The regulator stood by the provision that “subscriber shall not further distribute the broadcaster’s services to others whether or not for commercial consideration”, keeping the ambiguity of what constitutes distribution.

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