Customers who had submitted forms too find their signal switched off

It was an unpleasant start to the weekend for some Bangaloreans who woke up on Saturday to blank television screens.

Cable TV operators spent all day negotiating with angry customers, many of whom had already switched to a set-top box well before the Union government’s April 2013 deadline, and had even diligently submitted their consumer application forms (CAFs). Submitting these forms are mandatory as per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) guidelines as they are used as proof that the switch from analogue to digital signals has been made.

According to estimates from the Karnataka Cable TV Operators’ Association, over three lakh television sets have gone blank. Several cable TV operator representatives conceded that some of these are because the forms were submitted last minute. However, what angers them is that even in the case of customers whose forms were submitted months in advance, the signal has been cut off. “We have spent all day taking customer calls. A majority of us have submitted our forms. Cutting the signals arbitrarily is wrong practice,” said Patrick Raju of the association.

He says that while around 10 per cent of the total CRF forms may be pending, or were submitted late, around 25 per cent television sets have gone blank.

‘Within a day or two’

When contacted, a representative of a leading multi-system operator (MSO) said they were asked by TRAI to switch off the signals. “Operators submitted forms in bulk yesterday. It will take us a day or two to feed these forms and customer details into the ‘subscriber management system’ database. Until then, their signals will remain cut,” the representative said, adding that this was the fourth extended deadline. “If forms have been submitted, we will switch it on within a day or two.”

Local cable operators had delayed submitting forms because they did not agree with revenue sharing conditions printed behind the forms. According to government records, cable TV digitisation stands at 106 per cent in Bangalore. However, forms have been submitted for around 80 per cent, TRAI officials maintain. The situation is better in Mysore where almost all CAFs have been received and uploaded by the MSOs, officials said.

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