5 Telling Quotes From the Comcast Franchise Meeting

Philly tells Comcast what it wants: better service, more support for schools, a la carte channels and more.

Turns out, lots of people have very strong feelings about Comcast.

So many of them have strong feelings, in fact, that the basement conference room at the Philadelphia City Institute — the site of the first in a series of meetings about the company’s franchise agreement renewal with the city — was filled to overflowing during a lunchtime meeting today, as a parade of speakers marched forward to share how they believe Comcast can better serve the company’s Philadelphia customers.

There were the usual complaints about customer service and billing but also pleas for the company to maintain access to and funding for the PhillyCAM network of community-access channels, demands for a la carte channel selection, and challenges for the company to increase its commitment to public education in the city.

“We should be the shining example of what they can offer the rest of the country,” said one man, a Drexel grad who works as a web developer.

Not all of the topics raised will be covered in the franchise agreement — officials will almost certainly treat questions about Comcast’s property tax bills as a separate policy matter from its technical responsibilities under the franchise agreement — but the discussion was far-ranging. Some notable quotes from speakers.

• A South Philly woman was angry about her customer service, bellowing “I. HATE. COMCAST!” at the conclusion of her remarks, to applause.

“You’ve taught your people very well how to be politely rude,” she said in a quieter moment. “And that’s an understatement.”

Lance Haver, City Council’s director of civic engagement, asked for the company to expand its Internet services to be affordable to all potential customers.

“If we as a society are going to use the Internet to provide basic government and school services, then we as a society must ensure affordable, universal access,” he said. “There are no second-class citizens.

• A middle-aged Center City woman asked the company to let customers choose only the TV channels they want to pay for. “When I go to the store, the store doesn’t make me buy kumquats, frozen corn and hot dogs,” she said. “I buy what I want and I leave.”

• Another woman held a sign: “Tax Comcast, Not Teachers,” and said the company hadn’t paid its fair share to support Philadelphia public schools.

“Why don’t they want to pay their share?” she asked.

• A Penn professor reinforced the point, noting he’d never had a student who was a graduate of a Philadelphia public school. “I think it’s time they stepped up to the plate and made a difference in education in this city,” he said.

Comcast had representatives on hand at the meeting, but they were listening, not directly responding to the speakers. The meetings continue through noon Saturday. After that the company and City Hall are expected to negotiate a 15-year agreement to continue to operate the cable service in Philadelphia

A Comcast spokesman said the company had paid $163 million in franchise fees to Philadelphia over the last 10 years; Comcast also expects to continue its support of the community access channels under the new agreement, she said.

“We value the strong partnership we have with the city of Philadelphia and its residents and are extremely proud of the world-class services we deliver throughout our hometown, as well as the significant benefits that are afforded by our franchise here,” the spokesman said in a statement to Philly Mag. “We look forward to a comprehensive and productive dialogue with City officials.”

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.