When J N Sarangapani recently approached his cable operator to install set-top box (STBs) provided by the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation, he was instead suggested a private service.

The local cable operator coaxed him to opt for a private multi system operator (MSO). Like him there are many such residents who are forced to opt for private service during the transition from analog to digital cable service.

In the absence cable operators or sales person on its own, Arasu cable relies on local cable operators (LCO), but they suggest the government service only as the last option.

Cable operators opine that they receive only a pittance as the commission from Arasu cable, whereas the commission from private players is attractive.

Arasu cable offers two subscription packages - Rs 125 (Rs 148 including GST) and Rs 175 (Rs 207 including GST). LCOs say that only Rs 60 is being shared with them for every connection of Rs 148 package, whereas Rs 40 more being offered by private players.

The cable operator has to pay Rs 180 for every STB in six installments and adjusted with their commission for the package.

For the first six month, the operator will get Rs 30 as commission from Arasu cable and the rest will be adjusted with the price of the set-top box. Private players also offer incentive for every new connection.

"The infrastructure facility in each area is developed by the concerned cable operators. We certainly deserve more. It is the responsibility of Arasu cable to make their service more attractive to the customers and make sure LCOs get their due share," said G Damodaran, general secretary of Tamizhaga Cable TV Operators General Welfare Association (TCOA).

Moreover, LCOs say that they are held responsible for the box, even in case a resident does not return it while shifting, which is an added liability to them.

"Why should we end up paying Rs 180 for the box if the customer did not return it? There is nothing wrong if we promote a service which provides better dividends," said A Pandi, president of Cable Operators Guild, Madurai.

Arasu cable faces stiff competition not only from the private players, but also from the cooperative multi service operators (MSO) run by LCO themselves.

For instance, TCOA offers set-top boxes under the marketing name TCCL, while Cable Operators Guild, Madurai, offers set-top boxes under the licensed name Digital Guild Network (DGN).

TCCL has installed over 10 lakh set-top boxes throughout Tamil Nadu, whereas DGN has installed over 25,000 pieces in Madurai alone.

An official from the Arasu cable stated that strict action would be taken against LCOs who refuse to provide government service when the customers demand for it. He said that Arasu cable offers better a product in terms of quality and service. – TOI