If television viewers in parts of North Delhi encounter a blank screen when they switch on their TV sets, they may have the power company that services them, North Delhi Power Ltd (NDPL), to blame.
The company, a joint venture between the Delhi government and Tata Power, plans to remove all illegal and unauthorized cables, wires, and other equipment of cable TV operators installed on its electricity poles; it will also slap a fine on the operators.
Operators will be allowed to use low-tension electricity poles, but only if they pay a fee and subscribe to NDPL’s safety conditions. Cable operators usually piggyback on the existing pole infrastructure of electricity or telecommunication firms.
NDPL hopes to pass on this unexpected boost in non-tariff revenues to consumers in the form of lower electricity rates.
NDPL has around 150,000 poles in North Delhi and the company hopes to collect a fine of Rs1,560 per pole (or a total of Rs23.4 crore). “There is a tremendous amount of money to be made for the consumers. If the cable operators pay this fine, the power tariff in our area can be reduced by 10%,” said Arup Ghosh, chief operating officer, NDPL.
The move, which is being tried out in a pilot project, will have a dramatic impact on the operations of cable TV operators when extended to all of North Delhi.
There are around 1,000 cable operators in North Delhi who together service around 800,000 homes with cable connections.
NDPL had initially started the exercise in Rohini, Pitampura and Model Town, but has now decided to expand the operation. “We now plan to extend this drive to all the districts within our area and complete the removal of these connections by the next financial year (2007-08),” said Ghosh.
The cable operators, however, smell a controversy to do them out of their share of the market. “It (NDPL’s drive) has a vested interest,” said Roop Sharma, president of the Cable Operators Federation of India, an industry body.
“As it is a Tata company, this is a strategy to monopolize the market by pushing the interests of Tata Sky, a DTH digital satellite television service. We will observe the situation and then file a case,” he added.
Dismissing the allegation, Ghosh said the move was in compliance with an October 2006 order of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) and a Delhi high court order dating back to 1996. “We have zero communication from Tata Sky or any other group company. Our only motive is that instead of drawing cables in a haphazard manner, it should be done in a safe and aesthetic way,” he countered.
In response to the company’s drive, six cable operators have already signed a deal with the power distribution company and Ghosh is hopeful that others will follow suit.
NDPL has made it clear that its high-tension poles, towers and central verges can not be used by cable operators for laying the cable network. NDPL had advertised in newspapers in December 2006, warning cable TV and telecom operators to stop illegal and unauthorised use of its poles.