The Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) has said in the last five years, no major step has been taken by the government to facilitate the process of digitization of cable networks. In their written submissions before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology looking into the 'status of Cable TV digitization and interoperability of Set top boxes, the COFI stated that in the last five years of digitization, the government has not taken any step to facilitate the process. ''The main objectives of the cable TV act, 2011 was to organize Cable TV networks into digital infrastructure and bringing it at par with newer technologies like the DTH, IPTV and OTT; protecting cable operators in rural areas against fierce competition from DTH operators; giving choice to consumers at affordable tariff and bringing transparency and accountability to the service leading to higher revenue from subscription and taxes etc. However, none of these have been achieved, ''the COFI said in its submission before the committee. Among the problem areas listed by the COFI in the achievement of digitization were consumers being forced with bouquets created by large broadcasters, lack of uniformity of tariff, non availability of STBS in the open market, encouragement to operators to take over the subscribers of small operators and no FDI coming in for last mile infrastructure. ''Consumers are still forced with bouquets created by large broadcasters. A-la-carte choice is not given to the consumers , or where it is offered , it has been made out of reach of a common man. Also, there is no uniformity of tariff as broadcaster's content distribution is highly discriminatory and not in favor of small operators. Further, no STBS are available in the open market as there is no interoperability and indigenous manufacturing of STBs is yet to pick up. Instead of helping small operators to fight competition with DTH, DTH operators are being encouraged to take over subscribers of small operators on the pretext of completing digitization on time. No FDI is coming in for the last mile connectivity neither any financial institution funds them. FDI has been increased to 100 percent which helps only the large companies which further use it for acquiring cable TV networks, rendering thousands of people jobless,'' the COFI said. The COFI said among the major challenges faced in the industry for digitization were the fact that 70 percent of the population of the country was poor and also the fact that the government has neglected wireline networking which can carry high speed broadband and also that the Cable TV networks infrastructure is yet to be declared as National broadband infrastructure.''Seventy percent population is poor. Pay TV cost and Bandwidth cost is very high. According to the latest data released by the rating agency BARC, there are 100 million TV homes in rural India. Also, Cable TV networks infrastructure is yet to be declared as National Broadband infrastructure. In 1999, the National Telecom policy mentions the use of cable Tv networks for broadband penetration but no practical steps have been taken since then,'' the COFI said. Another challenge, the COFI said, was that the cable TV infrastructure is registered by the postal department (under the Telecom ministry) and governed by the Telegraph Act, yet it has been placed under the I&B Ministry which does not have the expertise to improve the infrastructure. ''Ministry of I&B is only interested that maximum TV content passes through cable TV networks to help pay TV broadcasters make more money. Due to continuous neglect by successive governments, no financial institute recognizes cable TV business for funding. FDI also does not flow in as expected as the investors also feel that our policies do not support the last mile infrastructure essential for providing good quality digital services,'' the COFI said. It also said large scale monopolies have been created due to large scale implementation of cross media holding policy.The COFI also said there is not a single institute in India to train the nearly 20-lakh people that have been employed by cable operators. It also claimed that while in analogue times, before 2004, there was a massive local manufacturing support to the cable TV, the industry had now died because of the bad policies and out of focus implementation. In response to the submissions by the cable operators federation of India, the information and broadcasting ministry said that the date furnished by the COFI was not correct. Refuting COFI's contentions about a lack of uniformity of tariff, the Ministry said, ''the cost of bandwidth is same for all the players. ''The Ministry said that the government has been giving attention to the wired broadband connectivity. ''This was one of the reasons that cable TV networks in the country were mandated to be digitized so that very high speed broadband access is available to the consumers,'' it said. The Ministry said it has recently moved a proposal to grant infrastructure status to the broadcasting industry. It said it is the responsibility of the industry to improve the technical infrastructure using the best suited state-of-the-art technology. β€˜The Ministry has only mandated that infrastructure should be digital. No technology has been specified by the ministry,'' the Ministry said. In its submissions.the COFI, expressed the view that in order to make India digital, the present policies need to be re aligned with focus more on infrastructure development. It also suggested that the policies needs to be realigned for smaller stakeholders. It said the national broadcast policy should be framed , convergence and broadcasting Bill be cleared soon. Also, it stressed for innovative methods to convert existing cable TV networks into broadband networks. Further, it suggested starting of a digital service obligation fund to help small MSOs to upgrade broadband in rural areas and that the registration fee and license fee for cable and broadband services must be reasonable. – Web India