SELCO celebrates 40 years of Shrewsbury cable

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SELCO celebrates 40 years of Shrewsbury cable
SELCO honored its first cable division manager, Wayne Cullen, by naming the company’s headend data room in his honor, in a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of cable in Shrewsbury. Pictured, from left, are SELCO General Manager Christopher Roy, Wayne Cullen, Director of Broadband Services Joel Malaver and former General Manager Thomas Josie. (Photo/Bill Gilman)

SHREWSBURY – Members of the SELCO family past and present gathered March 24 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of cable in Shrewsbury, as well as the contributions of one of its cornerstone staff members.

Shrewsbury Electric was granted its first cable television (CATV) license on March 28, 1983, operating as Shrewsbury Community Cablevision (SCC). A short time later, the company would be renamed Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations (SELCO). 

Wayne Cullen was the first manager of the company’s CATV division and served in that capacity for 28 years. During his tenure, cable service in Shrewsbury grew, thrived and adapted as technology rapidly evolved.

At the 40th anniversary ceremony, held at the company’s “headend” on Parker Road, SELCO officials unveiled a plaque, naming the company’s central data room in Cullen’s honor.

“A lot of the systems that we have today [in Shrewsbury], like cable TV, internet, [Cullen] was a pioneer who established all those things back in the day,” said Joel Malaver, SELCO director of broadband services, who was hired by Cullen and called him a mentor. “Through his efforts, through his pride in the work and through his mentorship, this is what we have grown into.”

Among those in attendance at the event was former SELCO General Manager Thomas Josie, who credited Cullen with being a driving force behind the success of Shrewsbury’s efforts to develop and grow a municipal cable provider.

“He was really the brains behind this place when it was started. He was here from Day 1,” said Josie. “It was under his leadership that the system was put in and grew into what it is today. He was somebody who could work 24 hours a day, doing whatever needed to be done. Through upgrades or emergencies, Wayne was always here.”

Cullen arrived in Shrewsbury in 1983, having worked for the municipal cable system in Worcester. He said that experience gave him the knowledge of what was needed to get Shrewsbury CATV off the ground and functioning quickly. 

Under Cullen’s leadership, the first Shrewsbury cable subscriber was activated Sept. 9, 1983. By 1984, there were 5,600 local subscribers and by 1985, 100% of homes in Shrewsbury were cable ready. In February 1987, local cable programming was introduced with the broadcast of Shrewsbury’s Annual Town Meeting.

Much has changed in 40 years. Cullen admits that when he and his original team began work in 1983, it was impossible to envision how rapidly technology would evolve and grow the cable industry.

“It’s totally expanded and exploded. When it went digital, everything changed,” he said. “We went from one channel in analog to 12 channels of digital in the same frequency slot. It changed the whole outlook of cable and networking.”

Even as SELCO celebrates 40 years of cable in Shrewsbury, the industry continues to evolve, forcing the company to change along with it. At a recent meeting of the Select Board, SELCO representatives acknowledged that cable subscriptions have dropped by 50% in the past decade, as residents opt to “cut the cord” of cable in favor of internet-based TV and a la carte streaming services. This has forced SELCO to reimagine how it provides services to Shrewsbury residents.

“With new challenges come new opportunities, and that’s what we are seeing here,” said current SELCO General Manager Christopher Roy. “The way people consume news and entertainment [is changing]. So that’s where we see our initiatives like Minerva and the SELCO stream product. Those are the big changes, where it’s all app based. That’s what’s changed from what we’ve seen from the prior 40 years to what tomorrow brings.”

For more information on SELCO, visit https://www.selco.shrewsburyma.gov/.

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