It is strange that in spite of TRAI's detailed consultations with industry since 2004 and numerous recommendations, the industry has been lead to the present situation where some basic provisions made by TRAI are being questioned in the court rooms before even properly implementing them. Stake holders have been giving enough information to TRAI on functioning of the industry in their replies to the many consultation papers issued so far but hardly any practical solutions have been found to regulate the industry.
TRAI's latest consultation on some interconnect issues has come up only after TDSAT declared some of the provisions in the DAS Regulations as 'bad in law.' It reminds me of the CAS law when its implementation was deferred in 2003 and handed over to TRAI for examination and further action. That time too TRAI did not do anything except carry out consultations and ultimately MSOs had to go to the Courts to start its implementation.
It appears that TRAI ignores all the ground realities and takes a stand on their preconceived views of functioning of the industry that are generally influenced by views of a few stakeholders who have more than the usual opportunity to impress the government and the regulator using different forums like industry associations created for lobbying (IBF, NBA, FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM, CASBAA etc.), sponsored industry events, using their lawyers and personal meetings. With the result we have the regulations that benefit only a few.
It appears that TRAI ignores all the ground realities and takes a stand on their preconceived views of functioning of the industry that are generally influenced by views of a few stakeholders who have more than the usual opportunity to impress the government and the regulator
Courts cannot always find solutions for the industry as they only examine the present laws and give judgements accordingly, keeping in mind the statement of disputes projected before them for resolution. If there is basically something wrong with the law itself, it is very difficult to match the court judgements with the real situation on the ground. Also small stake holders cannot even afford going to courts where as large players are always ready with their lawyers to approach highest of the court to get relief or delay the action with verbal jugglery.
TRAI as a technical expert has an important role to play in suggesting the government the right kind of laws and regulations that would lead to consumer benefit and all inclusive growth of the industry. We find so many thought provoking articles written by ex- TRAI Chairmen in the National Dailies giving solutions to problems faced by Telecom as well as Broadcast Industries. Why then the same people did not apply their minds when they were in chair? Their illogical framing of regulations have caused havoc with the country making people at the highest echelons of the government get involved in scams of gigantic proportions.
One also wonders why all the learned people in TRAI or the Ministry do such manipulations in creating a regulatory environment that is against the general masses and favour only a few? Is it that our democratic environment gives so much of power to these people to meddle with the lives of millions?
Take for example the present state of implementing Digitisation in cable TV. Nothing that promised has been achieved. Also the process that took 10-12 years in USA and Europe is being expected to be completed in six months to one year in India. Even China, a country famous for autocratic implementation of law has used its mind and created an environment that has benefitted its economy so much that it rules the world economy now. It has more than 100 million digital cable subscribers now. And it is not very long when it started doing reforms to its economy. It is sad that we cannot even learn from such examples in the world.
I feel TRAI should have gone deep into the functioning of the industry, its present state and the future possibilities instead of trying to create a brand new industry of its choice, where the interests of only a few stake holders are taken care of.
There is also a need to ensure that once TRAI gives it recommendations, the Ministry concerned must accept them or reject them with reasons made public, within a given time frame rather than keep them in cold storage like it has been doing in case of many recommendations for the broadcasting industry, in particular the ones that would have benefitted the cable TV industry. It will not be wrong to say that cable TV industry has been neglected by the government since the regulatory task was given to TRAI in 2004. Industry has not grown after that and like the rate freeze imposed by TRAI in 2004, the whole industry has been frozen.
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Col Sharma is a telecom engineer and a law graduate who has been the Chief Editor of Cable Quest Magazine for the last 15 years. He is closely associated with Broadcasting Engineers Society of India as a fellow member.
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