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No freeze on cable TV subscriber base: TRAI

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Feb. 19

THE Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday specified that while there is a freeze on cable rates, there were no restrictions on expanding the subscriber base.

In clarifications to the Telecommunications (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Tariff Order 2004, the broadcast regulator has said, "If the agreement applicable on December 26, specified the total amount as rate or charge per subscriber multiplied by the subscriber base, the ceiling applies to the per subscriber charge and not to the subscriber base."

However, the cable industry has said that with no auditing mechanism in place there could be a possibility of broadcasters demanding higher connectivity.

"Currently, the rates are low due to under-declaration. If the broadcasters ask for higher connectivity, subscription fee would have to be hiked," said a Delhi-based cable operator.

In January, as part of the consultation process, the cable rates were frozen at levels prevailing on December 26, 2003. The regulator also said that if the cable operator provides fewerchannels than on December 26, the cable charges should be reduced on a pro-rata basis.

Also, if more channels have been added after December 26, TRAI said the charges should be decided based on those being charged for similar channels.

The regulator has, however, said that it would not be directly involved in dispute settlements.

In case of a dispute between two service providers on the number of subscribers, stakeholders may appeal either to the courts or to Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The regulator has also specified that it will not entertain individual complaints on these issues.

The regulator has also warned against contravention of its orders, saying in case of violation, it has the option of launching prosecution against the offenders.

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