Has Philly Sold Its Soul to Comcast?

NYT op-ed questions city's relationship to its highest-profile business.

The New York Times today carries an op-ed — from City Paper writer Dan Denvir — suggesting Philly is much too dominated by Comcast, the city’s highest-profile business. “Philadelphia is a digital-age company town where the proper relationship between business and government has been turned on its head,” Denvir writes. “Welcome, indeed, to Comcast Country.”

He adds:

“You will have to search long and hard in this city to find anyone who will say anything bad about Comcast or the Robertses,” the former governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Philadelphia, Edward G. Rendell, told a reporter in 2001. Not incidentally, Mr. Cohen served as Mayor Rendell’s chief of staff before taking over Comcast’s political shop and becoming the Robertses’ consigliere.

Politicians here express their corporate loyalty in the tribal terms typically reserved for the city’s professional sports teams. (In fact, the Philadelphia Flyers and their hockey arena are owned by Comcast-Spectacor.) But many customers in Philadelphia demur: Comcast service here is expensive and poor, as customers everywhere complain. The company consistently receives among the lowest ratings of any major cable TV or Internet service provider.

Denvir’s op-ed comes, of course, as federal officials mull a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.