Philadelphia Asks Comcast Why It’s Not Treating Its Hometown As Well As Other Cities?

Philadelphia is Comcast’s hometown. Its current skyscraper looms like a giant thumb drive over the city’s skyline and its second tower will only establish Comcast as the dominating corporate presence in Philly. And yet, when Comcast announced its first (and second, and third) markets for a new super-high-speed fiber network, it looked elsewhere. And in spite of the fact that Philadelphia is one of the poorest urban markets in the country, Comcast chose to test an expansion of its low-cost Internet Essentials program more than 1,000 miles away in Florida. With Comcast’s Philly franchise up for renewal, the city is finally asking why its supposed hometown hero is helping everyone else first.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philly City Council has drafted a pair of letters to Comcast addressing the shortcomings of service in the city and what the company plans to do if it wants to keep operating here.

In April, the city released the results of a long-delayed customer service survey undertaken as part of the franchise-renewal process. For the most part, the results were not flattering for Comcast.

Not only did customers complaint about bad service, long wait times, and questionable billing practices, but the report found that Philadelphians were paying more for their service than customers in other markets.

So one of the letters from the City Council calls on Comcast to compare Comcast’s pricing in Philadelphia with that in other markets.

And since Comcast is being generous with Internet Essentials expansion for the people of Palm Beach County, FL, which can’t possibly give the company the same tax breaks as Philadelphia, the city is also calling on the company to show that it has some hometown pride by providing free or low-cost broadband service to places like recreation centers, homeless shelters, women’s shelters, police and fire stations, prisons, and public parks.

Perhaps most importantly, the city wants to know how Comcast can help Philadelphia school students bridge the digital divide, asking the company to make new investments in “hardware, software, service connections, staffing, and/or apprenticeship programs.”

“City Council is treating this negotiation with great importance, and is hearing the voices of many stakeholders, including workers, teachers, seniors, people with disabilities, students, families, and everyday Philadelphians,” says Bryan Mercer, executive director of West Philadelphia’s Media Mobilizing Project, which has been highly critical of Comcast’s apparent negligence of its home city.

“Comcast has benefited from many tax breaks in Philadelphia, the poorest big city in the United States,” continues Mercer. “If they want to be a part of our city thriving for another generation, Comcast needs to expand affordable Internet and cable to low-income communities and everyone who needs it; to protect workers and consumers, and to pay its fair share to public education in Philly – so our next generation of Comcast workers and tech leaders come from Philly and our schools – not Silicon Valley.”