New Delhi: Cable TV subscribers who fail to submit their consumer application forms by 25 June face disconnection, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said, which could affect 80% of such viewers in the country’s cities.

Non-compliance by consumers who have been shifted to the new digital cable TV distribution regime will lead to disconnection by their cable operator, Sudhir Gupta, principal advisor of Trai, said on Tuesday.

The new system has been implemented in 42 cities that have populations in excess of 1 million.

Cable operators have strongly protested Trai’s latest directive.

“The consumer application forms have not been filled up by a majority of subscribers due to practical limitations such as legibility of font, and inability to understand the English language," said Roop Sharma, president, Cable Federation of India, an industry lobby group. “The local cable operators usually send technicians for such an exercise and they are unable to communicate properly with the consumers."

Rahul Khullar (Trai chairman) is being very unreasonable. Nobody is opposing the technology but it cannot be a dictator’s diktat," Sharma said. “Right now, consumers are being forced to use a bouquet of channels offered by various broadcasters. It’s not à la carte choice. The point of digitization was to empower the consumer and provide them their choice of channels. This is not consumer-friendly. It’s a total failure of the (digitization) exercise."

Trai, on its part, says not filling out the forms means it cannot implement the subscriber management system, which provides a subscriber the option of choosing the channels she receives or pays for. Without the details required in the application forms, “the full benefit of digitization cannot be extended to all the stakeholders, including subscribers", Trai said in a statement.

Trai is in a hurry to push for compliance on customer forms without understanding the ground realities, according to Ashok Mansukhani, executive director, IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd, a multi-city cable network company run by the Hinduja family.

His company has achieved 76% compliance in Mumbai and 50% in Delhi in getting the know-your-customer forms filled, Mansukhani said.

“This is a time-consuming process. But in its zeal to fulfil the regulatory requirements, it (Trai) will ultimately sacrifice consumer interest," he said. “Customers who are paying their dues will suddenly find their TV screens blank for no fault of theirs. This, when the whole idea of digitization was more choice and better quality of service to the customer."

Trai has already started a process to prosecute 14 local cable operators and one multi-system operator (MSO) that has a network in several cities for non-compliance of the rules, particularly those related to quality of service. The regulator will initially focus on Delhi, Gupta said. MSOs depend on local operators for last-mile connectivity to consumer homes.