New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Tuesday extended the deadline for subscribers to change their television plans to 31 March.

According to the new tariff regime proposed by the regulator, consumers can choose the TV channels they want to watch and pay only for them at maximum retail prices (MRPs) set by broadcasters. The framework came into place on 29 December and the authority had given subscribers until 31 January to choose their channels.

The regulator said approximately 65% of the 100 million cable service subscribers and 35% of the 67 million DTH (direct-to-home) service users in India have switched plans till date.

The Trai regulation has come under the scanner for possibly leading to an increase in household cable bills, according to recent reports. The reports were denied by Trai chairman R.S. Sharma, who said cable bills will come down.

“It was brought to the notice of the authority that as the system of selecting channels or bouquet by the subscribers had been introduced for first time in the country, some subscribers were facing difficulties in making their choice," Trai said.

In some cases, local cable operators have not been able to reach out to subscribers to create adequate awareness and collect options. Many subscribers may be required to go to the nearest point of sale for exercising their options as they do not have access to internet facilities. There have also been reports of a few cases of pay channels of subscribers who have not exercised the options being deactivated.

Several DTH and multi-system operators have informed the regulator that implementation of migration plans is in full swing and efforts are being made to reach out to the remaining subscribers.

Trai has noted that though the new framework enables subscribers to pay for what they wish to view, non-exercise of the option should not create any inconvenience and, hence, has requested all distributors to create “Best Fit Plans" for subscribers who have not exercised their options yet.

This will be designed on consumers’ usage pattern, spoken language and popularity of channels across various genres, not exceeding the monthly payout within the existing tariff plan of the subscriber.

Subscribers will be free to change their “Best Fit Plan" at any date and time on or before 31 March and distributors shall convert it to their desired pack within 72 hours.

The regulator has directed distribution platforms to continue to provide various user-friendly methods for subscribers to be able to exercise their choice besides creating awareness among consumers about the benefits of the new framework.

“The authority further reiterates that subscribers who have taken long-term packs will continue to avail the services for the contracted period. However, they have freedom to choose channels under the new regulatory framework and in case they exercise this option, money for the remaining period shall be adjusted for their future use," Trai said.

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