For the first time TRAI Chairman was moved hearing sad tales of arassment, arm twisting and use of criminal force on LCOs by the MSOs in order to capture their last mile business taking shelter of the Regulations.
LCOs took over TRAI's open house discussion on Quality of Service regulations for imposing financial disincentives on LCOs and MSOs at India International Centre in New Delhi on 29 Sep 2014.The discussion attended by more than 300 LCOs from many states focused on the problems faced by LCOs in the DAS areas.
A situation similar to what happened in the open house discussion on 24 September 2014 at BSNL office in New Delhi was avoided as TRAI Chairman, reluctantly decided to listen to cable operators first.
First of all operators did point out to the Chairman that it was not right for TRAI to hold an open house just four days after the last one held on 24 September and that too during the festive season when Navratras are being celebrated in the whole country, particularly in Kolkata and Gujarat where the celebrations have a bigger meaning. LCOs told that they were very small businessmen who could not afford air travel. Even it was difficult to get train reservation within three days.
Surprisingly, there were no broadcasters or their lawyers attending the event. Also there was no representation of DTH operators and hardly one or two MSO executives could be seen. Operators took the stage from the start to the end giving a few minutes in between to TRAI Chairman to speak.
Mrs Roop Sharma, President Cable Operator Federation of India (COFI) explained in detail the negative impact of TRAI regulations on LCOs business, particularly their added responsibility of collecting subscriptions and taxes from every consumer and handing it over to the MSO within the month and then wait for their share to be given to them by the MSO. She said these tasks were not possible with the meagre 35% revenue share as it involved employment of increased manpower and demanded 100% of Basic charges as done during CAS implementation.
Mrs Sharma also pointed out that TRAI has not framed any Quality of Service regulations for Broadcasters as many broadcasters keep compressing their channels to fit in more channels in their existing transponders compromising on quality of transmission. Also no broadcaster is providing professional IRDs to the MSOs and Cable Operators to provide a quality signals. Similarly there was no way to keep a check on the service of an MSO to a cable operator. MSOs provide varying signals to an LCO whom they want to edge out. Cable Operator cannot even go to the court as MSOs do not sign any Service Level Agreement with LCO. She demanded that all regulations should be reviewed and all stake holders including broadcasters and DTH to be brought under the quality of service regulations.
Mrs Roop Sharma also pointed out that many subscribers demand complimentary connections from the LCOs, some pay less money and some don’t pay at all, stating some reason or the other. Operators are being forced by MSOs to pay from their own pocket for such subscribers. TRAI has not made any regulations for such unscrupulous customers.
Under such circumstances, how fair it is to impose a fine on LCO when they totally depend on Broadcasters and MSOs for service, she asked.
TRAI chairman was taken aback after hearing sad and bizarre tales from LCOs of Punjab facing the arm twisting tactics of Fastway MSO who enjoys total monopoly in the state, having political support from the incumbent government. Many LCOs had come from rural areas of Punjab which falls in Phase III and IV but were being forced to pay digital service billing as the MSO has already switched off analogue signal to the customers. Even customers are being forced to pay much more.
It was also told that if any LCO asked the MSO to give him a signed agreement, his STBs were being replaced with MSOs own STBs and part of his network was forcibly taken over. This way MSO was destroying the business of LCOs.
One LCO narrated that a BSF company left their location overnight for operations and took with them his 200 STBs incurring him heavy loss and there is no compensation in such cases.
Dr Khullar patiently heard the LCOs nd was visibly moved by their account and their woes. He assured Cable Operators that he would look into their problems and resolve the issues soon.