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Trai regulations effective from 1st April
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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has today issued the Standards of Quality of Service (Broadcasting and Cable Services) (Cable Television – Non-CAS Areas) Regulations, 2009. These regulations will empower the consumers for receiving quality service from the cable TV service providers in non-CAS areas. These regulations will take effect from April 1st, 2009, which will give sometime to the service providers to take necessary steps to comply with these regulations.

There are more than 80 million consumers receiving cable TV services in non-CAS areas, being served by about 60,000 cable operators. No formal regulations for quality of service (QoS) were issued so far in view of the highly fragmented nature of cable TV sector and because of implementational difficulties at ground level. Subsequently, TRAI has issued Quality of Service Regulations for cable services for CAS notified Areas in 2006. The DTH subscribers are also benefited by the Quality of Service Regulations for DTH Services issued by TRAI in 2007.

As a result of the lessons learnt after issuing QoS Regulations for cable TV services in CAS notified areas and for DTH service, the Authority felt it appropriate to commence the consultation process on the subject, and accordingly, TRAI has discussed the issues of Quality of Service for cable TV services in non-CAS areas in a consultation paper released on December 01, 2008. The comments of the stakeholders on the subject were invited by January 10, 2009. Responses received from 27 stakeholders/representatives were posted on TRAI's website on January 19, 2009. An open house discussion was then held on February 06, 2009 in Kolkata with representatives of stakeholders to further deliberate on various issues raised in the paper.

Based on the analysis of inputs received during consultation process, the Authority has decided in favour of issuing QoS regulations for highly fragmented non-CAS cable TV networks across the country. The Authority, while framing these regulations, appreciated the voluntary digitalization and adoption of addressability by some of the service providers in non-CAS areas, and accordingly provisions have been made for seamless migration on QoS front whenever CAS is extended by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in their areas of operation in future.

The main features of the Regulations are as follows-

i. Procedure for connection, disconnection and reconnection of cable services within seven days,

ii. Making it compulsory for cable operators to issue bills and receipts to cable TV subscribers,

iii. Complaint handling and its redressal, including maintaining helpdesk from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm everyday,

iv. Standards for provisioning of Digital Decoders and Set Top Boxes for voluntary CAS,

v. Compulsory technical standards to be observed by the cable operators, including a good quality, measurable signal strength at subscriber's end, maintaining six-hour power backup etc.,

vi. Monitoring of Quality of Service standards.

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. In addition, the consumers can approach District Consumer Forum if the QoS standards are not met by the cable operators. The regulations have largely to be seen as a tool for self regulation by the service providers, residents associations etc. and a high degree of sensitivity and responsiveness towards the subscribers is expected from the service providers.

The full text of the Regulations is available on TRAI's website: www.trai.gov.in The Authority believes that these QoS Regulations would go a long way in protecting the interests of the cable TV consumers at large.

*******

Akshay rout/AG/VK

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