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New cable TV regulations to be in force from April 1
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Kochi: The subscriber-friendly cable TV regulations drawn up by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will come into force on April 1 in areas not covered by the conditional access system (CAS), such as all of Kerala.

The regulations specifically deal with the procedure for connection, disconnection and reconnection of cable services; issue of bills and receipts; complaint-handling and -redress; provision of digital decoders and set-top boxes; and adherence to technical standards.

The Standards of Quality of Service (Broadcasting and Cable Services) (Cable Television - Non-CAS Areas) Regulations, 2009, issued just days ago, will have a bearing on the services being offered by cable TV operators in large parts of the country. If their grievances are not solved by the operators, subscribers can seek legal redress under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, or the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, or any other law in force.

TRAI had issued quality regulations for cable services for CAS-notified areas in 2006 and for direct-to-home subscribers in 2007.

Welcomed

K. Vijayakrishnan, general secretary, Cable TV Operators Association, told The Hindu that cable TV operators in the State would welcome any move aimed at improving the quality of service despite the limitations they faced owing to the small scale of operations. Of the 4,000 operators, nearly 2,400 were members of the association. The State’s dominant operator, Asianet Satellite Communications Ltd., welcomed the regulations.

“We shall only be too glad to adhere to the TRAI regulations and guidelines since heightened customer satisfaction has always been our main objective,” said its senior vice-president, S. Satish Kumar.

No keeping in the dark

A key provision in the regulations is that operators are not permitted to take a channel off the network without offering notice of at least three weeks to the subscribers and giving the reasons for taking it off or discontinuing it.

The procedures make it clear that a new connection should be provided within seven days of application, if there are no technical hurdles.

Subscribers have to be provided with a 15-day notice if the connection is going to be cut.

In case of a break in service for preventive maintenance, subscribers have to be alerted.

The details of the services being offered, such as the number of free-to-air and pay channels and the tariff, should be spelt out.

The operators will have to set up a helpdesk for receiving service requests, answering queries, receiving complaints and redressing grievances.

It should function every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at least.

Complaints will have to be assigned docket numbers.

Apart from issuing bills and receipts, subscriber complaints on billing will have to be redressed within seven days and refunds issued within 30 days following the resolution of the complaint or before the next billing cycle, whichever is earlier.

Digital services

If digital services, with or without CAS, are offered, operators should make available to the subscribers the details of places where digital decoders or set-top boxes, which should be BIS-standard compliant, can be purchased or obtained on rent or hire-purchase.

Also, they should “publicise the salient features of various schemes available for outright purchase, rent or hire-purchase of decoders or set top boxes.”

Those supplied on rent or hire-purchase basis have to be replaced or repaired within 24 hours in case of malfunction.

TRAI has specified that the technical quality of signals should be in keeping with those published by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

Asianet has been following most of the regulations envisaged by TRAI early on because of the high benchmarks it has set as regards customer satisfaction, Mr. Satish Kumar said.

It has been in the forefront of introducing digital cable TV service in the State.

Most cable TV operators have been improving the quality of service because of increasing competition, Mr. Vijayakrishnan said.

The technical quality has improved with the use of modern technology, such as optical fibre cables and digital equipment.

TRAI has said that the “effective involvement of local District administration under the State Governments and District Level Consumer Forums will go a long way for successful implementation of QoS Regulations in protecting the interests of the consumers at large.”

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