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New pricing regime for non-CAS areas

delhi Updated: May 21, 2007 21:11 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Your monthly cable charge in a non-addressable system may be fixed irrespective of the number of pay channels added to your television set.

This is what the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has suggested in a consultation paper released on Monday. The paper is not applicable to areas under the addressable system - south Delhi - popularly known as CAS zone.

The suggestion is aimed to plug a loophole in the last tariff order, where the cable operators were allowed to increase the monthly cable charges, when a new pay channel was introduced or an existing Free To Air channel converted into a pay channel.

The regulator found that since December, 2003, as many as 24 new pay channels were introduced and 36 free to air became pay channels. To accommodate new pay channels, the cable operators used to flush out free to air channels, thus hiking the monthly cable rates. There was a provision in the earlier tariff order to hike the cable bill over the ceiling fixed by the regulator for new pay channels.

The regulator has now suggested a ceiling on monthly cable bill, irrespective of the pay channels shown, for consumers to curb this practice. The regulator says it would help the subscriber to be clear about the maximum amount a cable operator can charge from him. But, it would not mean that the consumer would have to pay this amount. "The consumer can still end up paying less than the ceiling depending on the number of bouquets he or she selects," the paper says.

The paper also suggests a uniform rate to watch television across the non-CAS areas, if consumers’ select similar channels. There is no such uniformity in cable rates as of now, the regulator said.

The paper raised the issue of enlisting price of each individual channel, rather than having a price for the entire bouquet. Number of consumers had complained to the regulator that they have to watch unwarranted channels because cable operators force them to of bouquets. The regulator, however, says this issue cannot be tackled in absence of an addressable system.

The paper also talks about the issue of disputes between cable operators and multi-service operators (MSOs) on the number of consumers the operators have.