Consensus emerges, but no decision yet about future of Fibrant
By Josh Bergeron
SALISBURY — A consensus emerged Monday night among members of a committee organized to examine the city’s fiber-optic network.
Fibrant is here to stay.
Salisbury City Councilman David Post said the statement addresses a misconception among some local residents — that Fibrant could “go away” depending on the city’s decision about its future. The City Council and a business advisory committee are discussing three offers to sell, lease or manage Fibrant.
The City Council and advisory committee met in a closed meeting for roughly three hours, Post said. He and Mayor Karen Alexander, separately, said the meeting included general discussion about follow-up questions asked by the three interested companies and the advisory committee. Both also separately noted the same consensus among those present for Monday’s meeting.
“It was a clear consensus that the Fibrant infrastructure is an asset that is an extreme value not just right now but down the road,” Alexander said. “We’re continuing to investigate the best models for going forward, which at this point nothing has been decided in terms of that. We’re still exploring the companies.”
Regardless of whether the City Council chooses to sell, lease or pick a company to manage Fibrant, the infrastructure that comprises the municipal internet, TV and phone service won’t disappear, Post said.
“It’s here to stay. It’s not as though any of our competitors are putting anything else in the ground,” Post said. “All they’ve got is copper cable. which deteriorates as time goes on. … I think we’re all of a common mindset that we have to make Fibrant work.”
Monday was the third time city officials and business leaders have met to discuss offers for Fibrant. The first two were held in April and included in-person presentations from interested companies.
The city has repeatedly refused to provide the identities of finalists or details of proposals from companies that didn’t make the final three. The other companies that expressed interest in Fibrant include AT&T, Axia, Foresite, Network Design Decision, Open Broadband, Rapidity, Sunset Digital Communications, Terra Pact, Ting, Wide Open Networks, Wilkes TMC and Fujitsu/NDDI.
After Monday’s meeting, neither Post nor Alexander specified a date when the future of Fibrant would become clear. Post estimated three to six months but “more toward the six-month mark.”
Alexander didn’t specify a time range.
“We are working as quickly as is possible through the process, and we would certainly like it to be sooner rather than later, but we also believe that doing the due diligence is important,” she said.
The city-business group didn’t set a date for its next meeting, Post and Alexander said.
Whatever the solution, Post said he will advocate for establishing a permanent business advisory committee for Fibrant. Post also said city officials should find a way to provide Fibrant services to “underserved communities” at a reduced cost and use the network for security purposes in some neighborhoods.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.
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