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Salisbury’s Fibrant Proposes Near-‘Turn-Key’ Headend Network for Community Fiber Projects

Phillip Dampier December 16, 2010 Broadband Speed, Community Networks, Competition, Fibrant, Public Policy & Gov't, Video, WOW! No Comments


Fibrant, Salisbury, N.C., community-owned fiber to the home network, shares advice to other communities considering building their own self-reliant, locally-owned broadband networks: work together and outsource the headend.

Christopher Mitchell from Community Broadband Networks alerted us to a video from TelecomTV interviewing Michael Crowell, Fibrant’s Director of Broadband Services.  In it, Crowell shows off Fibrant’s GPON fiber network and explains what the city has learned from the experience of building its own network.

Ironically, a significant part of Fibrant’s network came cheap thanks to Windstream.  It seems what the residents of Salisbury won was also a loss for those living in Concord, N.C.

Crowell explains Concord was served by a small independent phone company — Concord Telephone.  They had decided to build their customers an advanced fiber to the home network similar to Fibrant, until the company was sold to Windstream.  Windstream has no interest in delivering world-class fiber broadband to Concord (or anywhere else), and left Concord with dismal DSL, selling the fiber network equipment to Salisbury dirt cheap — for around 10 cents on the dollar.

But not everything has come so easy to Fibrant, says Crowell.  One of the company’s largest expenses is its headend, which receives, monitors, and distributes the hundreds of video channels Fibrant customers receive.

“What we think would be a better model going forward is for the other cities and counties to do what is called an open access network.  They build and maintain the fiber but get other providers to provide the service,” Crowell said.

Crowell proposes allowing the state’s two largest municipal broadband projects — Wilson in the east and Salisbury in the central-west part of the state, handle the headend, as well as customer service calls and billing on behalf of other communities interested in building their own municipal fiber networks.  Both cities can deliver bulk feeds of video channels to different parts of the state and that saves other communities from spending money to hire employees to monitor redundant, expensive equipment.

That is more or less what is happening further south in Opelika, Ala., where work is underway constructing a fiber to the home network.  But in Opelika, city officials have decided to let cable overbuilder Knology run the network.

Knology’s network is already up and running in nearby Auburn, according to Royce Ard, general manager for Knology.  Ard told WRBL TV:

“We met our scheduled date for installing our first Auburn test customers and the test is progressing nicely. We will begin adding our first paying customers by the end of October,” Ard said. “Initially, our services will be available in a limited number of neighborhoods, but as we build out our network we will contact homeowners and let them know when services are available in their area.”

Knology projects being able to offer service to its first Opelika customers by the second quarter of 2011.

“Knology is very excited about entering the Opelika market,” Ard said. “The technology that we are deploying in the Auburn/Opelika markets will allow us to offer consumers a much better product than they have today. This, along with Knology’s commitment to customer service, will greatly improve the overall experience for consumers in Auburn and Opelika.”

[flv width=”512″ height=”308″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Salisbury Discusses Motivation Behind Fibrant on TelecomTV 12-16-10.flv[/flv]

Fibrant’s Michael Crowell, interviewed by TelecomTV, walks viewers through Fibrant’s fiber network and discusses community-owned fiber networks.  (7 minutes)

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