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Trai puts CAS off by 3 months

24-February-2004
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Trai puts CAS off by 3 months

The fate of the conditional access system (CAS) remains uncertain, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) asking the government to defer it in the four metros by another three months so that the regulations for governing the sector can be worked out.

In its interim recommendations to the government today, Trai said, “Studies of the cable sector in various countries have shown that the sector needs regulation till effective competition can be introduced. The authority will take about three months to finalise the regulations.”

According to Trai, four state governments -- Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal -- had opposed the introduction of CAS in its present form, making it obligatory for the regulator to streamline the procedures in consultation with states before ensuring its implementation.

The regulator felt that CAS market was an area-wise monopoly and the consumers were getting exploited. “Unless regulations prescribe the behaviour of stakeholders, the consumers are bound to be exploited, as is happening today. Regulations can only be eased once competition is introduced in the market by ensuring the introduction of other services or ensuring more than one operator in a geographical area,” it added.

Citing an example, Trai said set-top boxes (STBs) were not interchangeable and questioned, “What will happen if the subscriber moves from one area to the other. This requires regulation.”

“The present system of CAS needed an immediate reconsideration as offences were committed by cable operators in showing pay channels without STBs and with state governments having requested for reconsideration, state authorities were not fully implementing the provision of the act,” Trai said.

“CAS, or any other addressable system, should be implemented only after Trai, in consultation with state governments, is able to issue regulations in this regard and thereafter the switch-over can be effectively monitored,” it said.

Pointing out the problems relating to the rollout of CAS in its present form, Trai says there is no uniformity about the rates, and they differ considerably even within different parts of a city and also within a cable area.

“There are no standard rates or conditions at which services are provided by the various service providers of cable services including cable operators to subscribers,” the Trai recommendations said.

“Before the introduction of CAS, broadcasters, multiple system operators and cable operators had assured that its introduction would lead to lower tariffs and wider choice to customers.

This has not happened and due to the absence of a regulatory system, the situation can neither be properly monitored nor the various assurances enforced,” Trai said in its interim recommendations.

The regulator said the deferment would bring consumers in all the four metros of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai on a par with each other.

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