Video: When Salisbury and the Free World Got 10-Gigged by City Hall’s Politically Inspired Hoax: Fibrant’s 10 Gigs Available to Every Home!

Posted on August 27, 2017

Todd Paris, Salisbury Attorney and Candidate for Salisbury City Council

♦ Let’s take a step back in time to when Salisbury’s Mayor Karen Alexander and council were facing a tough election in November 2015. There were sixteen candidates, including myself, running. Fibrant, the city’s municipal broadband disaster was stinking up the room and council incumbents and staff needed some face saving “positive” news on Fibrant. Reeling from continuous reality-based news from Rowan Free Press and the rest of the free wold, city hall’s staff and council desperately announced a press conference with great fanfare at Catawba College’s Ketner Business School. Then Governor Pat McCrory and VIP’s from Calix attended and spoke. I wrote about this in RFP at the time.

Ralph Ketner, former Mayor Susan Kluttz, former City Manager Dave Treme, and whatever notables were trotted out to lend legitimacy to the announcement that “Salisbury is now America’s first 10 gigabit city (, with 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) available to every premise in the city through the municipally-owned Fibrant.”

Both RFP and I both knew the matter was “fishy.”  We knew from insider information that Fibrant lacked money for the necessary upgrades and we were unsure as to Fibrant’s announced partner’s financial stability. I ended up walking around at the press conference with a sheet of paper from the highly respected financial site “MicroAxis” that indicated Calix had a rather high probability of bankruptcy. I spoke to the Calix representative about this and he assured me that the company was financially secure. While that report is long gone, I have included a link to MicroAxis as a recent example.–Probability_Of_Bankruptcy

I remember giving the Fishwrapper’s cub reporter Josh Bergeron a copy of the Calix report, which the city’s newsletter dutifully ignored and having Mayor Alexander, in near gavel like desperation, saying I had “ruined Salisbury’s time to shine.” It was also interesting watching the new City Manager and the former head of RowanWorks, Van Geons scurrying around doing damage control. I would later hear Pat McCrory almost turned his car around at the last minute likely unsure of what he was walking into. I did see something smart. City Hall announced at the end of the presentations that media could ask questions of the speakers (except McCrory who had to leave on urgent business. Right.), but that the trolley bus would be leaving immediately to give a tour of the Fibrant Hub. It cleared the room. Some press conference!  The RFP smelled the rotting breath of a 10 Gig ruse.

I remember a big city marketing firm was being hired and that Salisbury’s announcement was on many of the online sites, including “Wired Magazine” about Salisbury now being a 10 GIG city. Who knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax-payer money was thrown down the sewer on this effort?

The “Fishwrapper” announced “The first 10 Gbps service is being offered at Catawba College, powered by the Calix E5-520 Ethernet Service Access Node (ESAN).” This 10-gig thing should have taken off, right?

The city’s press release on September 3, 2015 specifically stated, “Salisbury is now America’s first 10 gigabit city, with 10 gigabit per second available to every premise in the city through municipality-owned Fibrant.” Wait ho–let’s think about this. A quarter of the city was submerged in poverty, all those old folks who didn’t own a computers, the young people who used their smart phones to access the net, the many thousands persons who were more than satisfied with super high-speed TWC and AT&T U-Verse (They didn’t crash all the time), and the mushrooming epidemic of Salisbury’s smack, meth, and crack addicts who would swap their electronica for a fix.  And all these folks were going to buy subscriptions at well over $1,700 bucks a month for 10 gigs?  As it turns out it appears no one ever purchased 10 gigeroos from the Fibrant Debacle.

Now, let’s push the fast forward button on the time machine to August 21, 2017 and the City Council Candidate Information Session where candidates were allowed to ask questions and Evans Ballard, Interim Broadband Director is being questioned:

Ballard reveals “I would say there are probably no ten gig business customers at this time.” He has no idea what we spent on the Calix roll-out. I did misspeak on one thing. It was Councilman Post who had the idea to give away free Internet downtown, not Councilman Hardin. (My apologies to Kenny Hardin our next Mayor, it was getting late.)

I am not going to bash Evans Ballard at all here. He gave some truthful information and just refused to answer how much (I estimate about 4 million dollars) it’s going to take to fix Fibrant’s non-compliance with the national Electric Safety Code because it’s “under litigation.” Lot’s of other stuff, well he didn’t know. You can hear City Manager Lane Bailey breaking in to stop him from answering that question on the video as well. I surmise we really, desperately need to win that lawsuit.

I doubted we have the capacity and equipment to provide ten gig in 2015 or even now. With the failed marketing campaign there was no need to buy the additional equipment to provide it. The bigger issue is, did we lie to “Wired Magazine” and the public in these press releases when we said “Salisbury is now America’s first 10 gigabit city, with 10 gigabit per second available to every premise in the city through municipality-owned Fibrant.” Did City Hall eclipse the Piltdown Hoax?

It doesn’t really matter because I think the Calix-Fibrant roll-out was a marvelous success in that it achieved what I think was its political goal. It got Karen Alexander, Maggie Blackwell and Brian Miller re-elected. I still wonder how many of your tax dollars were spent to do that.

The Wired Article on Salisbury’s 10 Gigs:

From the September 7th, 2015 RFP article by Our Editor: Salisbury, N.C.’s Latest Publicity Ruse Becoming America’s 10 Gig City When Fibrant is a Minus $12.6 Million Super Fiasco:

Expert: Salisbury, N.C.’s Investment in 10 Gig Broadband Silly:

Press Release from Calix, Catawba College, Fibrant:

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