By Joseph D. Elie, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – On Feb. 7, the Board of Selectmen approved a proposed rate increase by Shrewsbury Electric & Cable Operations (SELCO), Shrewsbury's nonprofit municipal cable provider. Beginning in April, the basic cable package will increase from $11.63 to $16.68 per month, and retain the 25 percent discount to seniors. Expanded basic will increase from $21.52 to $23.24. Digital basic will increase from $11.95 to $13.95, and bundled packages will increase by $7.
Citing significant increases in “retransmission” programming charges from broadcasters such as NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox, SELCO Manager Michael Hale said SELCO's rate hikes were necessary to offset the increased cost of doing business as a local cable company. SELCO has not raised rates since 2006.
“If we do not pay their increases, the broadcast stations will pull the signal,” Hale said. “SELCO is committed to providing the most reliable service at the best price, but we cannot operate at a loss.”
Hale said that SELCO's rates will remain 40 percent lower than Charter Communications” rates.
Hale also briefed the selectmen on the progress of SELCO's major upgrade of its cable system, which is 57 percent complete. As SELCO continues to update its digital lineup, subscribers will need to ensure they have a DTA converter box in order to continue receiving all of their channels. SELCO will begin turning off analog channels next month in order to convert them to digital.
Hale said system improvements were necessary to meet the bandwidth demand. There is no additional programming cost to customers due to the upgrade, and by summer there will be 35 new HD channels offered. Hale added that channel numbers will eventually be grouped according to genre, so it will be easier to find similar programming such as news and sports.
SELCO is also Shrewsbury's municipal provider of electricity. Hale said electric rates have stabilized, largely as a result of historically low natural gas prices. There has not been a rate increase since 2008.