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MSOs can’t switch off signals to LCOs without 3-week notice: TRAI advisory

MUMBAI: In order to protect the interests of the
consumers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of
India (TRAI) has come out with three sets of
advisories to the multi-system operators (MSOs).
MSOs can switch off signals to a linked local
cable operator (LCO) only with proper notice,
degrading channel packages should be done with
proper procedure, and faulty set-top boxes (STBs)
need to be repaired or replaced.
For starters, the broadcast sector regulator has
issued an advisory directing MSOs not to switch
off signals to a linked LCO without giving three
weeks’ notice. The notice must clearly specify the
reasons for disconnection of signals in line with
digital addressable system (DAS) regulations.
“The MSOs can’t be blamed for this. We were de-
activating STBs to pressure the LCOs to pay us
our share of the subscription revenues. We used
to darken only a part of the LCO’s total network
base. A notice period of 21 days is fine with us,”
said the head of an MSO on condition of
The LCOs have welcomed the advisory. “It’s the
right advisory to come out with in light of random
switch-offs by the MSOs. This was long overdue.
The main issue is that the consumers are
suffering,” said Maharashtra Cable Operators
Federation (MCOF) president Arvind Prabhoo.
Agreed Karnataka Digital Cable TV Operators
Association spokesperson Sudhish Kumar. “If
channels are switched off too frequently, the
customer might shift to DTH. The MSO should
give at least 21 days’ notice before switching off
any channel. Even after switching off, the channel
should be offered a la carte. The cable TV
business is not about switching off channels. It is
rather about providing all the channels
throughout the year,” he said.
The channels subscribed by a customer should
not be switched off or discontinued without
following the proper procedure provided in the
Quality of Service (QoS) Regulations for DAS,
TRAI deputy advisor GS Kesarwani said in the
MSOs providing cable TV services through DAS
are advised not to degrade, stop, or switch off
any channel without following the proper
procedure mentioned in the regulations, the
advisory read.
“We have to pay content cost to broadcasters,
and this is climbing. What do we do when the
LCO is collecting the subscription revenue from
the consumer but not paying the whole of it? On
such occasions, we trim the bouquet to the basic
tier. But we do this only to a part of the LCO’s
network,” said the head of a leading MSO.
The LCOs believe that this is an unfair practice.
“We met TRAI principal advisor SK Gupta. We told
him that the government is asking us to seed
STBs in Phase III and IV. But with regulations yet
not implemented in Phases I and II, how do you
expect us to do that? By downgrading packages
to us, the MSO is indirectly harming the interests
of the consumer,” said Kumar.
In a separate advisory, TRAI said that the QoS
regulation for DAS requires every MSO or its
linked LCO to ensure that a faulty STB is repaired
or replaced with a new STB without any extra
charge within 24 hours of the receipt of the
TRAI said that the STB must be covered within
the warranty period or acquired by the subscriber
on hire purchase or on rental basis.
As per the Standards of QoS (Digital Addressable
Cable TV Systems) Regulations, 2012 (12 of
2012), the MSOs are advised to look into
consumer complaints within 24 hours.
For adhering to the timelines provided in the
regulation, spare STBs may be given to the linked
LCOs to ensure speedy restoration of services, the
authority said.
Since the consumers approach linked LCOs for
immediate redressal of their complaints, the
MSOs are required to lay down proper
communication procedures to register complaints
through LCOs and get them addressed on priority.
“We repair or replace the STBs. Less than one per
cent of our STBs turn faulty,” said the MSO head.
According to Kumar, the MSOs should play a
more active role in this area. “The MSOs say that
it’s their STBs. Then the servicing of these STBs
should be their responsibility. The MSOs should
give a replacement STB to the customer until the
faulty one gets repaired,” he said.
TRAI has notified a comprehensive regulatory
framework encompassing interconnection, QoS,
consumer complaint redressal regulation and tariff
orders for DAS implementation.

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