Spectrum seeks to enter Shrewsbury cable market

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Spectrum seeks to enter Shrewsbury cable market
Shrewsbury’s Town Hall stands within the town’s municipal campus off Maple Street. Charter/Spectrum has applied to expand its coverage into Shrewsbury. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – In Select Board meetings throughout August and September, Town Manager Kevin Mizikar announced that the cable provider Charter/Spectrum has applied to expand its coverage into Shrewsbury. Charter Communications is a broadband and cable operator that serves its customers through its Spectrum brand, according to its website.

SELCO – Shrewsbury’s longtime cable operator – is preparing for the possible competition. At the SELCO Commission’s Sept. 26 meeting, General Manager Christopher Roy addressed the possibility of Charter/Spectrum moving into Shrewsbury.

Roy described “important talking points that need to be conveyed to the community,” stressing that SELCO needs to ensure residents are well informed about how the company works and what SELCO does. Roy wanted SELCO and the community to have a stronger connection.

“In a constructive way, the knowledge of the role that the citizen has with respect to SELCO seems to be limited,” Roy said. “So our effort is now to increase that awareness to say, ‘How do we differ? … How does our business construct differ from theirs?’”

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Roy listed several differences between SELCO and Charter/Spectrum during the meeting. For instance, SELCO prides itself on having a “localized workforce,” whereas Roy characterized Charter/Spectrum as “outsourcing” customer service support from “somewhere far away.”

“It starts to highlight the advantages and values that SELCO has versus a major corporate conglomerate and whether or not that’s the value stream that Shrewsbury wants to maintain for this community,” said Roy. 

“In the end, it goes back to [a] locally-owned, locally-operated community [business], versus a for-profit company that has no linkage to Shrewsbury,” he added.

Commission members voiced concerns that Charter/Spectrum could undercut SELCO, drive SELCO out, then raise rates two years later. The commission indicated Charter/Spectrum had done this before to other towns.

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SELCO doesn’t currently have any competition similar to Charter/Spectrum, although the commission argued that SELCO has “substantial competition” and loses subscribers to services like YouTube TV, Hulu and Netflix. 

Charter/Spectrum said it would be able to fiber the entire town in 12 months, though commission members didn’t seem to believe the timeline was realistic. The work would include pole replacements, wire transfers, road openings and trench work.

The Select Board will ultimately decide whether to accept Charter/Spectrum’s application.

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