City Council Supports a Resolution to Possibly Sell Fibrant, Lease Fibrant, or Bring in Outside Management // Why Selling Fibrant is Highly Improbable

Posted on January 18, 2017

Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney

♦ Last night the Salisbury City Council passed a resolution to possibly sell Fibrant, lease Fibrant, or turn it over to outside management. Selling Fibrant is a decision three years overdue and perhaps that decision has timed out.

During the previous race for City Council, a major mistake made by former Mayor Paul Woodson when he walked out of a meeting with North State Communications. North State Communications operates a fiber-optic system in High Point and was looking to acquire Salisbury’s system to expand their own footprint and customer base. It was a natural fit. Former Mayor Paul Woodson walked out after saying he wasn’t interested, an abrupt display of his lack of business acumen to all involved. What was the price tag of that poor decision? Another $4.7M of your money lost trying to maintain the charade that Fibrant was a good thing so the current crop of politicians could maintain face and make it through the next election. Remembert large PR event held at Catawba College to roll out 10 Gig service, a serrice that ultimately failed due to lack of customer interest.

The subsequent election of David Post changed all that. As an elected official without any ties to the Fibrant decision, he was able to push until the true nature of Fibrant was exposed publicly. This was something I also pushed for loudly during the City Council race. This was something city staff was unable to do on their own without undercutting their own bosses. This was something that would result in the incumbent candidates playing a childish “it wasn’t me” blame game routine that continued to show their first priority was to protect themselves and not our city.

Divesting Fibrant to a larger private provider made and makes sense. They have efficiencies of scale across the board that Fibrant will never be able to attain. This will reduce the costs to operate the system and this is the best chance to make the infrastructure profitable long-term. As a result, we can free up money that would otherwise have gone to Fibrant and re-budget it to more important priorities such as rebuilding the Police Department and providing job training for citizens in the West End.

But the question must be asked…is it too late? The decision to divest Fibrant should have been made three years ago when there was an interested buyer literally at the conference table. Bad political leadership prevented that from happening. Let’s hope the new political leadership can get them back to the table. Otherwise that day when the former Mayor walked out of that meeting will be a dark, dark day for our city.


Steve Mensing, Editor

♦ I watched with interest parts of yesterday’s city council meeting and noted a resolution was passed to possibly sell Fibrant, lease Fibrant, or turn it over to outside management. Perhaps leasing Fibrant (I can’t imagine who would lease it) and definitely turning it over to outside professional management would be a good idea. The right management choice might stem a bit of the financial bleed out. Selling it? That appears extremely unlikely. It would be great if Salisbury could dump Fibrant on a rube private oblivious to what is going on Salisbury’s overcrowded high-speed broadband field. Frogs are known to fall out of the sky and crackpots hand out $100 bills on the streets. “Hey partner belly up–I’m the richest man on Earth!”

Why wouldn’t a private broadband company purchase the Fibrant debacle?

• First off lets clear the board of Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) and AT&T U-verse/AT&T Gigaverse. They have zero interest in Fibrant. The big guys already have a lot of fiber optic throughout Salisbury and they use up-to-date equipment incompatible with Fibrant’s dated equipment. Some of Fibrant’s equipment is seven years old. Erase these two monster broadband companies with deep pockets and awesome marketing from the chalkboard.

• Now imagine a prospective private broadband, with sound reasoning, would notice Fibrant was already failing in an oversaturated field (Spectrum and AT&T U-verse/AT&T Gigapower.) Lest we forget that DirecTV and Dish are selling a lot of TV. Certainly far more than over-priced Fibrant. Too much competition possessing incredible Madison Avenue Marketing. Wait until Spectrum marketing and policy arrives. Fibrant is already toast–now it will be incinerated.

• Now what if a prospective buyer asks to see Fibrant’s actual stats. They will see in almost 7 years Fibrant never even remotely turned the corner to break even or make a small sprofit. Year-after-year they suffered immense losses that impeded having a fully staffed and a well paid Salisbury Police Department and providing a full measure of governmental services. Many communities in the city are left out of the pie. That’s a huge alarm bell for a prospective buyer.

• Now selling Fibrant gets really ugly. 33,000 plus people live in Salisbury and 27.2% live below poverty. That’s over a quarter of the city’s population that can’t afford pricey internet. It’s out-of-reach.

• A lot of folks don’t have a computer–either they can’t afford one or they don’t want to be bothered. There are many folks in Salisbury who have to go to the public library to have access to the internet. When Fibrant did their original projections they didn’t factor in all the people without computers in their home.

• A lot of younger people and adults have no need of an internet provider–they use their smartphones instead of a VOIP phone and they use their smartphones to get on the net.

• Another fact of life: the spendable income is shrinking in Salisbury as middle and upper income folks move out of Salisbury because of the city’s overwhelming violent and property crime, lack of jobs, D rated public schools, some 2,000 plus vacant and abandoned houses, and Salisbury’s heroin, meth, crack, opioid, and alcohol epidemic. The city’s future is stunningly dark. The economic development guy recently quit and is going to Fayetteville.

• And lest we forget the limited stream of Salisbury true believers in a city dead-in-the-water who feel an undying loyalty to the city and purchase Fibrant to show their loyalty. Will they transfer their loyalty to a mom n’ pop private and purchase their services? Doubtful.

Everything You Want to Know about the Fibrant debacle:

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