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TRAI opposes in Kerala HC All India Digital Cable Federation plea against 2022 tariff order

Telecom regulator TRAI has opposed in the Kerala High Court a plea by cable companies challenging its amended interconnect regulations and tariff order of 2022, saying that these were applicable to broadcasters, distributors of TV channels and local cable operators.

The cable companies, represented by the All India Digital Cable Federation and the Kerala Communicators Cable Ltd, have contended that TRAI’s amended interconnect regulations and tariff order of November last year were “arbitrary” and “take away from the consumer their choice and autonomy”.

The matter is scheduled to be heard on Monday afternoon by Justice Shaji P Chaly.

The petitioners have claimed that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has failed to regulate the pricing of television channels or cap their prices.

Instead, it increased the pricing of television channels that can be included in a bouquet, they have contended.

“The actions of the Respondent No.1 (TRAI) instead of stemming the consistent decline of the cable television sector are bound to ensure the slow and steady decline of the sector leaving the mass of consumers in rural, tier 2 and tier 3 cities and towns, who do not have access to high speed internet with no access to information and entertainment,” their plea has said.

AIDCF is India’s apex body for Digital Multi System Operators (MSOs) and its members include Asianet Satellite Communications, Hathway Cable and Den Networks, according to the petition.

Kerala Communicators Cable Ltd is also a member of AIDCF, according to the plea.

“An analysis of the packs announced after the impugned 2022 tariff amendment which are yet to be implemented or passed onto consumers demonstrates that consumers will need to pay between 20-40 per cent higher prices on regularly subscribed channels,” the petition has claimed.

It has also contended that while 45 per cent discount has been permitted on bouquets of channels formed by broadcasters, in the case of MSOs like the petitioners, the discount on bouquets formed by them is capped at 15 per cent.

This is “arbitrary and discriminatory” and amounts to “perverse pricing”, the petitioners have alleged.

Countering the claims of AIDCF, TRAI in an affidavit has contended that the federation has not shown how it was affected by the regulation or tariff order and therefore, it had no locus standi to challenge them.

The regulator has also claimed that AIDCF had consented to the price cap of Rs 19 per channel. PTI

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