City Council Unanimously Approves Comcast Franchise Deal

Comcast will pay $250 million in fees over the next 15 years.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia City Council has voted unanimously to approve a 15-year franchise agreement with Comcast.

The tech and media giant will pay $250 million in franchise fees over the next 15 years and provide data technology to 200 city locations like municipal buildings and recreation centers. Comcast will also expand its Internet Essentials program, which offers Internet access to low-income residents at discounted rates.

Here are more details:

  • Comcast will be held to specific customer-service standards (like missed service appointments and service outages) and be forced to pay up to $500,000 per year if it fails to comply.
  • Comcast will pay a franchise fee of 5 percent of gross revenues from cable service. That’s the same fee the company pays the city today — and the maximum allowed under federal law.
  • The company will provide a prevailing wage and living wage to workers.
  • Comcast will expand public, education and government community channels. There will be 11 of them.
  • On Internet Essentials, Comcast promises to launch any trial program associated with the service in Philly first. It’s starting by launching its pilot program for low-income seniors here. It also waived the clause stating that you need to be without Comcast service for 90 days before joining the program. (The city is subsidizing that part.)
  • Speaking of seniors, they’ll get a 10 percent discount on limited basic and digital starter cable services.
  • It’s launching a Virtual Customer Care Agent pilot program that will hire 150-200 people here.
  • Comcast will provide career and technical education to high school seniors — and will hire 50-100 of them each year. It’ll work with the School District of Philadelphia to develop the program.

Today’s vote was largely seen as a formality, as much of the work was done last Thursday, when Comcast and city officials ironed out the final details of the agreement.

David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer at Comcast, said the company is “delighted with the franchise agreement.”

In a blog post, Cohen said: “Comcast renews hundreds of franchise agreements with municipalities across the country each year — but this one is different. Philadelphia is our hometown. This is where more than 8,000 of us work, and where so many of us live and volunteer in our communities. This agreement uniquely reflects our commitment to our headquarters city and its residents.”

Jim Samaha, senior vice president of Comcast’s Freedom Region, said the agreement “and other unique collaborations ensure Philadelphians continue to receive best-in-class, leading edge products and services; improvements to their overall customer experience; and affords the creation of hundreds of new, good-paying jobs and careers that benefit Comcast, our customers, and the city alike.”

The Media Mobilizing Project, spent lots of time advocating for more connectivity for low-income residents and even helped create the Corporate Accountability Project – Comcast (CAP Comcast) Coalition. The organization released a statement lauding the “historic and unprecedented expansion” of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and the far reaching public benefits for low-income communities, and for all Comcast customers, now and into the future.”

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