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Upcoming National Broadcast Policy to clear way for cable TV operators to provide broadband: Report

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s upcoming National Broadcast Policy will try to make it easier for cable television (TV) operators to provide broadband through their infrastructure to customers’ homes, the Hindu Business Line reported. Several cable providers already use copper cables that are capable of carrying internet traffic, but have stayed away from providing broadband on these connections for a variety of reasons.

But the biggest reason, which came up even when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) mulled the issue, is the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues that operators would have to pay. Since cable TV operators already pay this amount, they are worried about the prospect of double taxation arising and potentially adding to their liabilities.

If the National Broadcast Policy prioritises broadband pass-through—the technical term for offering internet services through cable TV infrastructure—policymakers may be inclined to offer definitive clarity on the taxation of converged providers. This would be no small feat as TRAI estimates that there are 100 million cable connections in India, and only 20 million wired broadband connections.

Cable TV pass-throughs being encouraged could lead to an explosion in residential broadband provision. The government is also considering giving broadcasters infrastructure status, which would give them access to better borrowing options.

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