SHREWSBURY, Mass. — There's good news and bad news for customers of Shrewsbury Electric And Cable Operations, the town's public utility that provides electricity, cable, and Internet access.
While their charges for electricity are on the decrease, the cost of cable is increasing.
SELCO Chairman Michael Hale met with Selectmen Dec. 18 to update the board on the utility's future, and what costs may be driving up prices.
The cost of programming from cable networks and fees that local stations charge are increasing, Hale said. Meanwhile, customers are using more bandwidth than ever for more devices, including smartphones and tablets for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.
“The game is all about bandwidth. Bandwidth is king. Bandwidth is everything,” he said.
According to Hale, more people are moving away from on-demand programming to use high-bandwidth streaming services. Cable operators often provide that bandwidth, but receive no revenue for it.
Hale said that, unless they raise rates, cap data usage, and limit spending on public-access programming, SELCO will be $1.6 million in the red. This comes at a time when SELCO wants a nearly $30 million to upgrade cable connections in town.
The silver lining? SELCO customers will receive a 50 percent one-time discount on their November electric bills, due to the decrease in cost of natural gas. Plus, SELCO might be decreasing electric rates starting in March 2013.
SELCO services 12,000 out of 14,000 households in Shrewsbury. A hearing on whether to renew SELCO's cable contract will be held Jan. 22, 2013.