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City joins telecommunications cooperative

By Mark Wineka
The city of Salisbury has become a member of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, which could help the city when it lines up television programming for its new fiber-optic cable utility.
“We are doing this in place of negotiating directly with each programmer,” said Mike Crowell, the city’s broadband services director.
“We will soon be assigned an account representative who will work with us to develop our channel lineup and bundles.”
The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative represents the advanced telecommunications and information technology interests of more than 1,400 rural utilities and affiliates in 48 states, according to its Web site.
NRTC helps providers such as Salisbury increase their individual buying power by becoming part of a larger contract.
The city of Wilson, which launched its fiber-optic utility a year ago, negotiated directly with each of its programmers and, to do so, had to hire a consultant and deal with individual contracts.
“That just brings another expense,” Crowell said Thursday.
Crowell gave Salisbury City Council an update on the fiber-optic utility’s construction progress Tuesday.
Councilman Bill Burgin asked if the project was proceeding within budget.
“At this point, we’re looking good,” Crowell said.
The actual installation of fiber-optic cable will be completed sometime in December, Crowell predicted, but Salisbury probably won’t be officially offering telephone, television and Internet services to homes and businesses until next June.
Before that, the city will be building and equipping a head-end facility on South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and conducting “alpha” (small control group) and “beta” (larger control group) testing.
City Manager David Treme said the city will be accepting applications soon for a marketing person for the fiber-to-the-home utility. At council’s July 21 meeting, Treme said, he expects to introduce the utility’s new field operations manager.
“We’ve gotten some tremendous applications,” he said.
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy said it’s important for citizens to realize that “we are creating jobs,” with the utility project.
Crowell has started a blog (www.salisburyftthblog.com) giving updates and information about the developing utility. It has seen up to 70 visitors a day and probably averages about 40, Crowell said.
“Pretty soon, we’ll be able to talk more about our channel lineup,” he said.


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