By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Representatives from Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations (SELCO) met with the Board of Selectmen at the board's Dec. 18 meeting to present a summary of current and proposed operations necessary for the utility's re-licensing in 2013.
SELCO General Manager Michael Hale presented an overview of company operations. He indicated that SELCO is in good shape to keep serving the town, with the financing of current operations under control. Future operations will depend upon increased revenue.
The current low price of natural gas allowed the company, he said, to be able to offer a one-time 50 percent discount in December to all residential and commercial electric customers.
Unfinished business includes a review of electric rates to ensure that they are properly classified by user category for 2013. This information should be available in late January 2013, Hale said; most users are expected to see a rate decrease.
But most cable TV users will see a rate increase by April 2013, for a number of reasons, he said.
Hale noted that SELCO continues to increase Internet service in town, both in number of customers and in the speed of Internet service. It has launched VoIP phone service, which allows one to use the Internet to place phone calls. It has deployed DOSCIS 3.0, which is a type of channel bonding that enables multiple downstream and upstream channels to be used together at the same time by a single subscriber. All users have been converted to digital systems and 70 HDTV channels.
SELCO has also launched “TV Everywhere,” ?an authentication service that lets viewers watch premium content online if they can prove they have a subscription to a valid multiservice operator such as SELCO.
SELCO is currently performing a systems review and is doing strategic planning with consulting firm Clearcable Networks as the industry experiments with wireless technology, Hale noted.
Selectman James Kane said that he was concerned that businesses would get first dibs on any Internet upgrades. Hale replied that SELCO would provide information to all on the town's varying available services.
Kane asked if cable channel “bundles” could be rearranged so that users did not have to pay for unwatched channels. Hale said that situation is controlled by the entertainment providers and thus was out of SELCO's hands. In response to a query from Selectman John Lebeaux, Hale said SELCO is not considering expanding beyond Shrewsbury.
Hale noted that students at the Sherwood Middle School have all been issued an iPad that they are allowed to take home at night. This has resulted, he said, in a 40 percent jump in town Internet use seven days a week between 7 and 11 p.m. The schools are the single largest users of town Internet, he added.