Thursday, April 14, 2016

TRAI on Reference Interconnect Offers

Mr. RS Sharma, the Chairman of TRAI, highlighted that the broad principles on which TRAI’s orders are based are: (1) transparency and non-discrimination for all stakeholders, (2) consumer protection and (3) ensuring growth of the sector. He said that in Telecom, the principle of net neutrality is broadly defined as ‘pipes being agnostic to content’. In this context, the TRAI asked all stakeholders to ponder if a similar principle could be applied to the Media sector where ‘content could be made agnostic to the pipe’.

Broadcasters want price forbearance at the wholesale level; however, genre-based price caps are acceptable to them. They refuted that discounts on RIO rates are to the extent of ~90% and highlighted that weighted average discount is far lower. Most of the broadcasters want carriage/placement charges to be regulated/abolished or subsumed within the RIO. Broadcasters do not want HD and niche channel pricing to be regulated. They wanted TRAI to mandate prepaid billing at the consumer level.

MSOs are against price forbearance at the wholesale level as they believe that consumer interests will be impacted. MSOs highlighted that HD channels are priced at multiple times that of SD pricing and this has to be regulated. They favour ‘integrated model’ of pricing of content under which the broadcaster can declare the retail pricing of its channels and the MSO declares the price for distribution services. MSOs believe that the existing carriage regulation is working well and should be left unaltered. MSOs also urged TRAI to mandate compulsory prepaid billing at the consumer level.