I&B wants Trai to look into cable monopolies

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SummaryIn order to promote transparency, equality and wider choice of cable service operators to the consumer in every state and to check the current monopolistic practices adopted by certain multi-service operators and local operators, the government has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to step in.

In order to promote transparency, equality and wider choice of cable service operators to the consumer in every state and to check the current monopolistic practices adopted by certain multi-service operators (MSO) and local operators, the government has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to step in.

This comes within a month of the information and broadcasting ministry seeking Trai comments on the issues related with cross-media restrictions vis-à-vis broadcasters/print media firms holding significant stake in cable distribution network and vice-versa.

“We are sending a reference to the Trai to get its view and recommendation in the matter. Trai will hold consultations with the stakeholders and come back to us with its recommendations on how to check monopolistic practices in the cable distribution sector,” Manish Tiwari, information and broadcasting minister, said on Monday.

Commenting on the success of the first-phase of digitisation process in the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, Tiwari said: “We have achieved 96% cable digitisation in the four metros. Put together the DTH numbers, the digitisation level has reached 97%. Now, the next target is the digitisation of 38 towns with a population of over 1 million.”

As per the official data, around 7.5 million digital set top boxes have been seeded in the four metros. But as most of the boxes are imported from South-East Asian countries, the I&B ministry is actively looking to promote local manufacturing of these boxes to meet the demands for the remaining three-phases in which entire 90-million cable homes have to acquire the boxes.

“We are talking to the ministry of small and medium enterprises as most of the manufacturing is executed by small manufacturers. We hope to move forward on the matter soon,” Uday Kumar Varma, secretary in the I&B ministry, said. Commenting on the reasons for undertaking such a massive exercise to digitize the analogue cable distribution system, Tiwari said: “Through the entire exercise consumers will become the ultimate beneficiary by having the key to choose the content or channels it wants to watch.”

The government has already said that the impending conversion of over 90 million analogue cable homes into digital addressable system (DAS) will generate annual gains of over R5,000 crore from taxes. According to a senior official in the department of revenue, the finance ministry expects up to 40% of this amount to come in the current fiscal alone.

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