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More Information On Salisbury’s Government ISP Failure

August 3, 2017

Earlier this week, we took a look at just one installment of “Fibrant in Focus,” The Salisbury Post’s investigation into the city’s government-owned Internet Service Provider (ISP). That installment was the second of five stories. Today, we look at the rest of reporter Josh Bergeron’s findings.

  • According to the first report in the series, Fibrant was supposed to be profitable within five years. As we noted in our earlier blog post, after six years of operation, it’s still not turning a profit.
  • Some city officials said Fibrant would lead to tax cuts. Instead, it has “resulted in relatively little in terms of luring new industry to town and indirectly led to property tax increases …”
  • In Bergernon’s third report, Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell called Fibrant a “mixed bag” and acknowledged the city still owed a “boatload of money” for the project. Salisbury borrowed close to $8 million from its water and sewer fund to help fund Fibrant. According to Bergeron, “The rating firm Moody’s cited that transfer when it downgraded Salisbury’s bond rating in 2014.”
  • While some residents are happy with Fibrant service, Salisbury resident Roy Bentley called it a “net neutral” for the city.
  • Fibrant has a marketing budget of $100,000.
  • In Bergernon’s fourth report, readers found out that, after six years of operations, Salisbury still owes $27.17 million in principal and nearly $4 million in interest on the initial bonds that were used to build Fibrant. (The city originally took out $30 million in bonds.)
  • Was Fibrant even necessary? In Bergernon’s fifth report, Dave Stockton, who works for Uptown Services, the consultancy that completed Salisbury’s initial broadband plan acknowledged, “From all the research we do, we see consistently very few households without internet, even the lowest-income households.”