Kolkata digitization: Tug-of-war between State and Centre

19 Dec,2012

By Ananya Saha

 

The digitization conundrum in Kolkata is not likely to see a solution soon, it appears. While the Centre recently ordered the MSOs in the city to switch off analogue signals by December 27, the State wishes to take into account the ground realities and extend the deadline. The State government is also upset because of the pressure from the Centre.

 

Swapan Chowdhury

Swapan Chowdhury, General Secretary, Cable & Broadband Operators’ Welfare Association, Kolkata said, “Yesterday a meeting was called by the State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim with all the existing MSOs of Kolkata. He has categorically stated that no switchover will be done from December 27 onwards. When MSOs informed him that they have already written to MIB, he said that it was also a State issue.” The MSOs have been told to not follow the terms of the Central government.

 

Mr Hakim also said that he was looking at a tripartite meeting between the Centre, State and local MSOs to sort the problem in a systematic manner.

 

On the condition of anonymity, a local MSO said that situation is grim and 100 percent digitization might take more than a month in Kolkata. Sumit Bose, President, GTPL, said, “The State has their set of concerns and we respect those concerns. On the other hand, the law has to be respected.” He added, “As MSOs, we are keenly watching the situation. We would like to move on with the model.”

 

“It is the matter of State issue also to look if the systems are followed or not. And MIB cannot pressure us if the realities do not match the goals. But because of the political tussle, the Centre is not ready to talk to the State govt. They are trying to do it forcibly, bypassing the State govt and the minister concerned,” said another cable operator, who did not wish to be named.

 

“There is still a shortage of STBs in the city, and it will take some time to sort out. But non-availability of STBs is not the only problem; the State govt will not let MIB to build so much pressure. MSOs have obligation to local govt as well. The MSOs are currently ‘sandwiched’ between local and central govt,” Mr Chowdhury said. Mr Bose said, “There are various figures floating in the market about the digitization levels in Kolkata. It is not easy to estimate the exact numbers because of the Cable and Satellite homes. Even a 10% here and there can mean three lakh homes. But I would like to say that GTPL has fared well.”

 

Kolkata was supposed to completely digital from December 28, according to the recent directive from MIB. According to Mr Chowdhury, the switch off of analogue signals was initiated from December 16, and was to switch to digital genre-wise.

 

Needless to say, the stakeholders in this process are waiting for the stalemate to be sorted out. But when would the State and MIB, and the MSOs reach a common consensus is hard to say.

 

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