City OKs more set-top boxes for Fibrant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — The city will order 5,000 additional set-top boxes for Fibrant at the discounted price of $721,572, a sign the utility is growing and staff members are negotiating the best deal, City Council members said.
Council members approved the purchase, which came before them because of the large amount of money involved and the “sole source” arrangement. The city needs to purchase the boxes from Amino Communications so they will be compatible with Fibrant’s software, Interim Fibrant Director Jim Behmer said.
The city received a 17.5 percent discount, or $153,000 off, by ordering the boxes directly from Amino, the manufacturer, Behmer said.
Fibrant’s original inventory of 5,000 set-top boxes purchased in March 2010 is running low, Behmer said. The city’s new broadband utility, which sells Internet, cable TV and phone services to Salisbury residents, has about 1,200 customers and averages about three set-top boxes per home, he said.
The purchase of new boxes is included in Fibrant’s budget for this year, and the equipment should arrive in January 2012 when the current supply is expected to run out, Behmer said. The purchase price came in under projections, he said.
“What’s the downside?” City Councilman Brian Miller said.
“I really don’t see one,” Behmer said.
The city would lose the 17.5 percent discount if officials waited to make the purchase, Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said.
Amino will pre-load the boxes with the Minerva IPTV software compatible with the Fibrant network.
Fibrant’s current budget is $2.3 million. Revenue estimates for 2011 include $591,500 from subscriptions, $500,000 from fund equity and $1.2 million from an internal loan from the city’s water and sewer capital reserve fund. Fibrant is required to pay back the loan with 1 percent interest.Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.