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TRAI DECLARES NEW MSO-LCO DAS INTERCONNECT AGREEMENTS
On 1 September 2015, the Bombay High Court directed the TRAI to look into and resolve the problems between LCOs and MSOs. If the TRAI was unable to resolve the issue, the court would intervene.
The court was responding to complaints by LCOs that they were being subject to unfair terms of agreement, both by the TRAI & MSOs.
LCOs had filed separate petitions in the Bombay HC challenging the terms of the Digital Addressable System (DAS) regulations dictated by the TRAI & the interconnect agreements imposed on LCOs by MSOs.
The petitioners in the matter are Nashik Zilla Cable Operator Association, Nashik City Cable Operators Association, Sai Big Star Welfare Association, Jogeshwari, Bhima Riddhi Digital Services, Hathway Cable & Datacom, Maharashtra Cable Operators Foundation, and Nestor Builders & Developers.
The Maharashtra government & the TRAI are the respondents.
Based on the court's orders, the TRAI began a fresh consultation process to formulate new and fair DAS interconnect agreements that must be signed between LCOs and MSOs.
A TRAI person was reported to have told the press "To date, the industry has been doing deals based on mutual negotiations and that is how it should be done going forward. However, we will look into the Bombay High Court order."
This thinking has apparently been the guiding principle in the new interconnect agreements now declared by the regulator.
On 15th March 2016, the TRAI declared "The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (Digital Addressable Cable Television Systems) (Seventh Amendment) Regulations 2016."
TWO OPTIONS FOR INTERCONNECT AGREEMENTS
The new regulation actually provides 2 agreements, which categorically spell out 24 different activities that need to be undertaken by the MSO or LCO or both. Each of the activities is designated with a specific serial number by which it is referred to. This activity numbering must be adhered to in all agreements.
MODEL DAS INTERCONNECT AGREEMENT
The Model Interconnect agreement list the 24 activities, leaving it to the LCO and MSO to mutually decide what role each will play, in completing the activity.
In case the MSO and LCO are unable to arrive at a mutually agreed DAS Interconnect Agreement, the Standard Interconnection Agreement must be applied.
STANDARD DAS INTERCONNECT AGREEMENT
The Standard DAS Interconnect agreement specified in the 2016 Regulation, is completely rigid and non-negotiable.
The MSO & LCO's responsibilities are clearly dictated by the TRAI for each clause, as summarised in Table 1.
Since the Model DAS Interconnect agreement is completely negotiable, there are no salient points except the fact that all 24 activities must be completed, either by the MSO or LCO as mutually negotiated.
On the other hand, the "Standard DAS Interconnect Agreement" outlines in detail the responsibilities of the MSO and LCO for each of the 24 different activities.
REGULATION NOT RECOMMENDATION
The TRAI has declared this as a regulation and not merely a recommendation to the I&B Ministry.
As a regulation, this declaration becomes law and must be followed immediately after it is notified in a Government gazette, which should happen by the time you read this article.