Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) held an urgent meeting of Cable Operators from all over the country to initiate a Fight to Finish and defend their fundamental right to do business as last mile service providers. The meeting was held on 11th June 2014 at the Karnataka Bhawan Auditorium, R K Puram in New Delhi.
Leaders and members of Cable TV Associations from many states participated in the meeting to discuss their issues and demands and resolved to approach the new government and the regulator to rollback certain provisions in the law for Digital Addressable Systems that jeopardized their livelihood. These regulations are forcing them to become subservient to large MSOs in the name of digitization.
Thousands of cable operators earn their living providing cable TV services on their last mile networks since 25 years but the DAS Tariff Order, Interconnect Regulations and Quality of Service Regulations have made them dependent completely on the MSOs. MSOs are now controlling their subscriber STBs and even decide on their revenue. Cable operators are left only as payment collectors which is the toughest part of the digitization as subscribers are being forced to pay Rs 1000 or more for low quality STBs and also pay much more subscription every month. MSO will deduct the money if a subscriber refuses to pay due to any reason.
More than 500 cable operators representing various regional and state associations including different parts of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, UP, Maharashtra, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar attended the meet. Some of the prominent names amongst the leaders from states are; Atul Saraf (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Pramod Pandya (Ahmedabad, Gujarat), Dilip Singh (Rajkot, Gujarat), Mohd Iqbal (Guwhati, Assam), Anil Poddar (Dibrugarh, Assam), Iqbal Khan, Rahul Rawat and Ajit Singh (Indore, Madhya Pradesh), Ashok Sharma (Durg, Bhilai, Chhattisgarh), Vikki Gulati (Korba, Chhattisgarh), Jeevan Khanna & Anil Upadhyay (Lucknow, UP), Shakir Khan (Jhansi, UP), Satish Chopra, Shailendra Singh (Gaziabad, UP), Anil Mahajan (Meerut, UP), Munish Khanna, (Shimla, HP), Deepak Khatri (Dehradun, Uttrakhand), Gurudev Singh Bhullar, Ram Singh (Amritsar, Punjab), Ramesh Soni (Jaipur, Rajasthan) and Arbind Goyal (Ambala, Haryana). Associations who could not join in due to shortage of time from far off states like Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal had sent their messages supporting the movement.
Mrs Roop Sharma, President COFI informed that this was the largest gathering of all India cable operators in the recent times and it happened because operators are feeling completely oppressed by the skewed government policies and are at the verge of losing their business. The issues that are worrying them are revenue share formula, billing rights to multi-system operators (MSOs), bureaucratic blockage to give license to small independent operators and level playing field. Another worry of cable operators is TRAI’s recent Tariff Order allowing pay channels to increase their rates by 27.5 per cent in two steps in non-addressable areas which ultimately will adversely affect the whole eco-system as DAS area rates are in proportion to these non-CAS rates. Roop Sharma further added that there is no option left to the Last Mile cable operators except to fight for their fundamental rights in the courts and lobby with the government to amend/ repeal the damaging clauses of the regulations, both at State and National level. She said that all India Associations will make a Committee to have meetings with other stake holders like Broadcasters, MSOs and Consumer organizations to resolve intra Industry issues. Cable Operators will also meet TRAI, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Finance Ministry, Home Ministry and all the States government to impress upon them the need to resolve these issues related to DAS in public interest as it is the subscribers who suffer the most in such uncertain conditions.
Mr Vikki Choudhary, President National Cable and Telecommunication Association (NCTA) said supporting the movement that they had waited for two years since the DAS implementation commenced, submitting memorandums to Ministers and regulator and meeting every concerned person but nothing happened. It was as if the UPA government had decided to get rid of last mile operators in favour of large media groups. A new hope has come with the Modi government in place and hence this meeting to start the movement on all India basis to save our business.