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DAS Phase III update on court cases, STBs seeded and other issues
MUMBAI: Seventeen out of the 42 cases related to the extension of digital addressable system (DAS) Phase III deadline have so far been transferred by various courts to the Delhi High Court, Information & Broadcasting joint secretary R Jaya informed.
While the Delhi High Court has dismissed three of these cases, another three have been heard the same day, Jaya updated.
A case filed by a headend-in-the-sky (HITS) operator on the same matter is also being heard in the Delhi High Court.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had filed a petition in the Supreme Court for transfer of all the cases to the apex court or Delhi High Court with prayer for urgent hearing and quashing of the extension in deadline granted by the various courts.
On 1 April, the Supreme Court passed an order transferring all cases related to DAS Phase III extension to the Delhi High Court. Any new case on the same issue would also be handled in the Delhi High Court for adjudication. In effect, the Delhi High Court became the designated court for all DAS Phase III extension matters.
STB deployment in Phase III
Despite being embroiled in many court cases, Phase III of DAS has been completed with the deployment of 4.1 crore (41 million) set-top boxes (STBs), Jaya said.
In this data, there could be some reporting of seeding in Phase IV as well. This is because direct-to-home (DTH) operators provide seeding data based on postal pin code numbers, Jaya explained.
Jaya, however, conceded that seeding of STBs has slowed down of late due to the court cases.
Jaya was giving an update on DAS Phase III during the Task Force meeting on 30 May, which was chaired by I&B secretary Ajay Mittal.
MSOs have to update seeding data for all four phases
MIB has asked all registered multi-system operators (MSOs), DTH and HITS operators to update seeding of STB data for all the four phases, DAS Advisor Yogendra Pal informed.
The seeding data should be entered in the MIS system (developed by the ministry for collection of data) and the update should be done once a week, Pal added.
Earlier, the distribution platform operators (DPOs) were providing seeding of STB data for just Phase III.
The MIS system has suitably been modified for this purpose and 35 operators have already entered seeding data for Phase IV, Pal said.
Pal informed that for MSO registration about 1000 applications have been received till date against the expected number of 6000 applications. He requested the Task Force members to advise MSOs to apply for DAS registration soon.
The MIB has also asked the broadcasters to check with the MSOs if they have taken registration for Phase IV areas and to advise them accordingly.
So far 870 MSOs have been granted DAS registrations, Jaya informed.
Jaya urged the MSOs and broadcasters to concentrate on Phase IV areas and to prioritise signing of interconnect agreements. She also mentioned that the stakeholders should plan and start launching publicity awareness campaign for mandatory digitisation in Phase IV, which is to be completed by 31 December 2016.
Chairperson Mittal asked the members if any of the stakeholders is adversely affected by the implementation of DAS. He mentioned that in his perspective it is a win-win situation for everybody. He expected all members to be candid and forthright in expressing their views.
Reacting to Mittal’s question, the Consumer Forum representative mentioned that though digitisation has not adversely affected anybody, much that was expected from the consumer point of view is still awaited.
The representative of local cable operator (LCO) from Maharashtra said that before implementation of DAS, LCOs were entrepreneurs and now they were reduced to becoming employees of MSOs. He mentioned that since DAS Phase I, LCOs have been voicing their concern over the TRAI regulation on revenue sharing between MSOs and LCOs, but the issue is still unresolved.
MSOs are not entering into proper interconnect agreements with LCOs, he added. He remarked that digitisation under Phase IV may not be easy as all national MSOs might not be able to cover all the areas.
GTPL Hathway representative mentioned that MSO and LCOs are separate entities. They sign agreements with each other as principals. Each entity has its defined role in providing the service. He said that the government should consider giving some incentives for digitisation in Phase IV areas.
He added that TRAI had recommended some incentives but this has not been accepted by the government as yet. Chairperson remarked that any incentives sought for by any group or sector should get passed on to the people.
Hathway representative mentioned that LCOs can also become MSOs. He said that MSOs have no issues with regard to interconnect agreements with LCOs. He informed that on the directive of Bombay High Court, TRAI has now prescribed a standard interconnect agreement form after due process of consultations. This form serves as a template for all such agreements.
Expressing confidence over implementation of DAS in Phase IV, he suggested that broadcasters should offer special rates for these markets.
Siti Cable representative remarked that digitisation has benefitted people as they get greater channel choice and better signal quality. He mentioned that extension of DAS Phase III deadline granted by various courts has badly affected the pace of digitisation.
The representative of DTH operators mentioned that due to extension in deadline granted by various courts, they had to retrench some of their employees whom they had deployed in the field.
The representative of LCOs from Assam complained that one MSO in the state had served a legal notice to them for migrating to another MSO. Consumers had also been served legal notice for the return of STBs, which they had bought from the MSO through outright purchase.
The authorised officers in the state of Assam do not take action against MSOs who are violating the cable network rules and regulations, he mentioned.
The TRAI representative clarified that regulations prescribe three modes of purchase for STBs – outright purchase, hire purchase and rental scheme. However, standard plans have been prescribed under rental scheme only. TRAI has prescribed no price for outright purchase.
He stated that such issues as raised by the LCO representative from Assam would not arise if the MSOs and LCOs had entered into interconnect agreements. He remarked that on the directions of the court, a standard interconnect agreement (SIA) form has been prescribed by TRAI after due process of consultations and there is no stay on the same.
He informed that TRAI has recently started review of all regulations and consultation processes on them have been initiated. He added that the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) used to pass interim orders earlier, but of late orders passed by them are final.
Mittal hoped that the review of the DAS regulations undertaken by TRAI is completed fast and the various grievances of the stakeholders are addressed. He also remarked that there appeared deficit of trust between MSOs and LCOs. TRAI should look into this issue, he added.
DTH representative wanted to know area wise TV households under DAS Phase IV. Task Force members were told that the TV household requirements as per the census 2011 data would be provided. This, however, would be district wise and not on the basis of rural areas.
Consumers deserve better quality reception and other benefits from digitisation, Mittal remarked. He hoped that all stakeholders would make concerted efforts to digitise the remaining areas under Phase IV.
MIB will be holding several regional workshops on digitisation at various places in the country in the coming months, he added.
LCO representative from Maharashtra complained that the state government entertainment officers are sealing the control rooms of MSOs for non-payment of entertainment tax.
On this issue, he was told that only the authorised officers, as defined in the Cable TV Act and Rules framed thereunder, are allowed to take any action for violations of the various provisions of the Act.
Pal mentioned that one state government has complained to MIB that the MSOs are not giving them access to their SMS system to verify their list of subscribers. He said that MSOs should provide the SMS report to the state governments as and when asked by them.
The Orissa government representative said that the government has set up coordination committees at state and district levels to implement cable TV digitisation. The nodal officers in the state are also checking the MIS data on regular basis, he added.
The nodal officer from Telangana mentioned that 20 MSOs operating in the state have not entered data in the MIS system so far.
Jaya said that it was heartening to know that state governments are also monitoring the seeding of data by MSOs in their states.
The MIS system, deployed by the ministry, sends an alert to an MSO in case the data is not updated timely. The regional units set up by the MIB should ensure that MSOs under their jurisdiction update the data regularly, Jaya added.
7 local STB manufacturers take iCAS licence
On the issue of indigenous STBs, Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA) representative said that local manufacturing has almost doubled since the meeting held last time. There is a lull in the market and no orders have been received by them in the recent past, he added.
Out of the seven indigenous STB manufacturers who have taken iCAS licence, five are in the process of implementing iCAS in their STBs. Twenty-two MSOs have placed orders for iCAS-based STBs.
DeitY is planning a meeting with the operators on 24 June, the representative added.
A point was raised that LCOs are asked by the Head Post Offices to obtain NOC (no objection certificate) from the state government for issue as well as renewal of their LCO registration. It was suggested that LCO registration be granted for five years, from a period of one year as per the existing rules. To this, the secretary stated that the suggestion would be considered.