Councilman David Post’s Attempt to Talk Up Fibrant at Tuesday’s Rotary Club Luncheon Greeted with Scorn by Salisbury Businessmen

Posted on August 4, 2016

RFP Staff

♦ On Tuesday, August 2nd, David Post gave a cheerleader presentation to the Salisbury Rotary Club luncheon, regarding the city’s failed broadband utility Fibrant. His major talking point was how the upcoming refinance of Fibrant’s certificates of participation (COPs) might enable the City to reduce the $10,000 per day losses on subsidizing the utility with a lower interest rate on the debt shares. He further highlighted other means that City Council might focus on expanding Fibrant’s customer base and recover some of Fibrant’s massive daily financial losses.

The Salisbury Rotary Club is a nonpartisan organization and made up of the town’s upper tier businessmen and bankers. Under normal circumstances it would be a safe crowd for a Salisbury City Councilperson to tout a city hall project. Post must’ve had a reasonable expectation of the gathering’s support.  Little did he realize the canary expired in its cage at the start of the mineshaft.

Unfortunately further into Mr. Post’s presentation, he gave the group an opportunity to ask questions.  And according to the Insiders present at the meeting one of the most pointed questions came from a prominent retired banker and elder-statesman in our community. The elder-statesmen’s inquiry pressed the issue of why our city council was still focusing most of its leadership efforts on salvaging its dead-in-the water broadband utility, when the citizens of Salisbury are daily faced with a lack of basic safety in their own homes and on the street. The respected elder-statesman reminded Mr. Post that potential investors for the reduced-interest COPs had viewed Fibrant as a “non-essential government service”, and all but one of them declined to place a bid on the request for proposals for refinancing.

Mr. Post became a bit defensive with the Rotarian luncheon gathering.  He respectfully stated he disagreed with the investors who declined the City’s offer—that broadband internet is an “essential government service”, putting it in the category of other essential services like electricity, phones, water/sewer and police protection. Mr. Post paraphrased a speech given at the U.S. Conference of Mayors by Candidate Hillary Clinton when he said that kids were going to school who do not have a fast connection to broadband they were being shut out of the global marketplace.  So now the City Council is following Hillary’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda” with its stated goal that “by 2020 every household in America will have access to affordable broadband.” That’s an agenda that Hillary and Mr. Post apparently shares with Greg Edds who led the County Commissioners to approve Fibrant extensions out to 2 business owners in the county’s Summit business park earlier this summer.

The rest of Mr. Post’s question and answer session drew more criticism of Fibrant. Prominent business people asked—even suggested—why the City didn’t abandon Fibrant due to its horrendous operational losses and start focusing on rebuilding a flat-lined municipality.  Several made observations that if a municipality were going to enter a business competing with private industry, the municipality must understand that 6 years of major losses should signal that the City needs to simply shut it down, take the known losses, and move forward with overall civic improvement.

What would be wrong with giving up the Fibrant ghost other than a loss of face? Would it not be more beneficial to the underprivileged children of Salisbury if there were greater educational, recreational, and basic security opportunities in their city?  Instead Fibrant swallows the city’s limited resources and its residents suffer until they sell their homes at a loss and move to safer and far prosperous places outside of Rowan.

And can we ask how those “poor” children fare when a struggling single parent buys into Fibrant’s onerous two year contract and can’t make the payments? Salisbury coldly cuts off their water, until the family pays the Fibrant bill. How does that help underprivileged families who are struggling to make ends meet?

Why it is that many of our regional neighboring municipalities, who don’t have a broadband utility (like Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Lexington, Burlington and even Spencer) are providing it free in most parts of their downtowns and parks, for underprivileged children to have a safe place to go to log into a broadband connection, but Salisbury has no such availability? Sadly, the answer is that providing free WIFI would be an impediment to signing up more Fibrant customers. So once Salisbury started competing with cut-throat, ‘evil’ corporations, they’ve now acquired some of those greedy corporations’ worst behaviors.  Salisbury’s city hall is demonstrating a lack of empathy for the poor while talking the opposite.

More truths will come out about Salisbury’s ineptitude between now and the August 16th hearing for Fibrant debt refinancing.

Who will lead this cause and hold our City leaders accountable? Ironically, it appears a prominent retired banker has already fired the first volley.

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