David Post: Fast Fibrant is hardly a clunker
Mark Brincefield is a talent, but his cartoon on Sunday, Feb. 11, showing Fibrant as “clunker” of a trashed car completely missed the mark and feeds a destructive narrative. Destructive to Fibrant. Destructive to Salisbury. (Hopefully not destructive to our negotiations with Hotwire Communications.) And a sad and woeful lack of understanding of Fibrant.
Does Fibrant have problems?
Yes. Big ones.
First, Fibrant was poorly planned. The idea was “build it and they will come.” It failed to match the ailing workforce with the high tech broadband. Community support and understanding were insufficient. Fibrant didn’t understand the market and how to change with the market.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, it has no business leadership. For two years, I’ve advocated that Fibrant have a Board of Advisors like most businesses to guide strategy.
Third, Fibrant was designed on the premise of building for the low-margin home market rather than the high-profit institutional market (schools, government, big businesses, and healthcare).
Fourth, Fibrant’s marketing efforts have been weak, inconsistent and ineffective. Its website advertises speeds one-third and one-half the national average when, in fact, it offers and should only sell speeds 10 times the national average. Who would go to Food Lion and buy a tomato if the sign said that two-thirds of all tomatoes are better? Or buy a car that got half the gas mileage of most cars in the country?
Since then, it has faced new challenges.
Voices in the city have criticized Fibrant for years, spreading “fake news.” Fibrant had a rough start. Ten years later, Fibrant flickers for a few seconds and the protests start. Spectrum has a problem, and it’s just part of the internet experience.
Bowing to millions spent by Time-Warner and AT&T in their lobbying effort to destroy Fibrant and protect their monopolies, the legislature handcuffed Fibrant after it was built.
Recently, Spectrum has been running full-page ads and sending mailers twice a week to lure customers away from Fibrant.
But does Spectrum serve the entire county? No. Beyond Salisbury city limits, Internet options are scarce or non-existent — hence, Spectrum and AT&T’s lobbying efforts to not permit Fibrant to grow.
Fibrant is a world class, state-of-the-art broadband system. With local service. Its operations and service are second to none. The service person may be your neighbor. And about 20 percent of Salisbury knows that. The other 80 percent have been beaten into believing that Fibrant is that clunker.
Salisbury built 353 miles of fiber on every street in the city. The schools provide every student a laptop. But most students cannot afford Internet in their homes. So, would someone please tell me — the mayor pro tem — why Fibrant has not explored providing free WiFi in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods? Maybe more kids would choose public schools.
What Fibrant doesn’t deserve is being portrayed by anyone as a clunker when it is a Cadillac or a Mercedes. Or even a Ferrari.
Hotwire deserves our respect. It is an experienced operator — recently winning several awards as the best internet provider — serving hundreds of thousands of customers in a number of states along the East Coast. It is going to prove that to Salisbury. Hold your breath.
David Post is Salisbury’s mayor pro tem.