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Susan Kluttz: Setting the record straight on good news for Fibrant

Last week marked two milestones of success for the city of Salisbury. We signed up our 850th subscriber last week and we continue to grow strong. Also, we received full exemption from the Senate Finance Committee for our system and approval of a service area with the support of our surrounding towns and county officials.
Our city launched Fibrant in November and spent the first month turning live all of our volunteer beta testers. After five months of signups, the city has 850 subscribers and is growing. We are very pleased with that number, which puts us on track with where we need to be at this point. Like any new start- up, it takes time to grow your business. With the current pace of sign ups, we will be at 6,800 subscribers by the end of year four. Our current plan required 4,500 subscribers by year four to be successful.
Earlier last week, the Senate Finance Committee approved a full exemption for the city of Salisbury. This is an excellent result, and it is important that our citizens know that after four years of fighting legislation backed by the cable industry, this a successful resolution. We have to thank Rep. Harry Warren, Rep. Fred Steen, and Sen. Andrew Brock for their continued leadership in securing a full exemption for our city.
Many people do not know this, but under the current state law the city of Salisbury has no limitation on where Fibrant can go. We can serve any town inside or outside of Rowan County, and also any unincorporated area if service were desired. House Bill 129 identifies and defines service areas for community broadband systems for the first time. That is why many towns sent communication to Raleigh requesting to be in our service area, so that they could keep their current option to request service. If you are not in our service area, you will never be able to have our service extended to you; it shuts the door completely.
Under the defined service area in House Bill 129, the city of Salisbury can provide service to all Rowan County towns if and when they desire and vote to approve the service extension. Further, we can provide service to economic development sites, public safety sites, governmental facilities and schools and colleges that are located outside those towns. Our efforts to define Salisburyís service area were focused on supporting our surrounding townsí authority to be able to request service in the future, making sure we could recruit and provide jobs for our citizens, and continuing to support our schools.
Unfortunately, citizens living in unincorporated areas will not be able to request service in the future even if they want it under the current language in the bill. If this impacts you, I would suggest you contact your local representatives, and you are always welcome to call my office.
The defined service area does protect the Salisbury City Councilís original desire to bring new technology jobs and employers to Rowan County. Our ability to offer economic development sites up to 10 gigabit service is a strong recruitment tool for economic development. This ability can also support and improve education throughout Rowan County, as we will be able to provide these services to our schools and colleges. We have already seen the advantages that Fibrantís technology is currently providing to area private schools. I did not want our public schools to be left out by this bill.
The Salisbury City Council voted to move forward with the fiber-to-the-home investment after five years of extensive study. This process included numerous focus groups, surveys, public hearings and consultation with leaders from the Salisbury business community.
Our Fibrant staff have shared with me that they continue to get several calls a day from citizens who live in surrounding communities and in the county wanting to sign up for Fibrant. I think that says a lot. Iím glad this bill allows those towns to explore that option. Typically, these citizens are looking for better customer service, faster Internet speeds and lower prices than what they have in their current area; where there is essentially no competition and no alternative.
It is not uncommon for us to save homeowners hundreds of dollars a year and businesses several thousand dollars a year off their current bill while providing them a faster, more reliable service ó and one that is provided locally and owned by our community. Certainly, that is something we can all support.

Susan W. Kluttz is mayor of Salisbury. Contact her at City Hall, 704-638-5270.

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