New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday ruled that the Conditional Access System (CAS) must be implemented in three metros – Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai - by December 31, 2006. The Government, in an affidavit, told the court that it would issue a notification by July 31, to ensure that paid channels will no longer be available to local cable operators. July 14, 2003, was the initial date given for implementing CAS across the four metros. But Chennai is the only metro that has implemented it so far. CAS is a system introduced by the Government to regulate the functioning of cable services in India and to give consumers a choice to view and pay for channels of their choice. According to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2002, the Conditional Access System is being introduced to check the following irregularities: Unreasonable costs being charged by cable operators for the cable services being provided to the subscribers The subscribers being forced to pay for channels which they do not wish to watch Massive under-declaration of the number of subscribers by cable operators thus resulting in their making undue profits Area-specific monopolistic distribution of cable operators thus leaving the consumer with no option but to comply with the undue demands made by the cable operators Once CAS is implemented, a set top box will be needed for viewing programmes. Buying a set top box costs around Rs 3,000. Set top box can also be taken on rent with a deposit of around Rs 1,000 and a monthly rental of Rs 30. The free to air channels under CAS will be available at a minimum cost of Rs 72 per month and cost of paid channels will be extra. Cable subscribers fear that CAS may prove more expensive to viewers than the present system.