Comcast gets an earful from disgruntled subscribers as Philly hearings commence

 Merle Muir-Moss testifies that she's

Merle Muir-Moss testifies that she's "not a fool" when it comes to believing Comcast's promises. (Bill Hangley/WHYY)

The public portion of Philadelphia’s cable franchise negotiations with Comcast Corp. kicked off this week with two hearings featuring a steady stream of unhappy customers. They shared complaints about  costs, signal quality and customer service.

 The day’s first hearing, held at the Free Library’s Rittenhouse Square branch, featured a few dozen residents who described their frustrations over life with the cable giant.

Here’s a sample of their concerns:

Nina Fay: “I think they need to give their employees more money. They make, probably, not enough to be nice to people when you call. They’re so over it! If they made some more money, had a few more benefits, maybe they’d be happier to handle the complaints.”

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Merle Muir-Ross: “I’m over 80 years old. But I’m not a fool. They laugh and smile, and they’re very nice to you. But they lie to you.”

Mike Miller: “You should make public, or demand that Comcast make public, what Comcast is doing to improve customer service. Because, for years, I’ve been hearing that service has been improved, and they’re working on it, but as everyone here knows, there’s no evidence of that.”

Barbara Silverstein: “I agree with several who say, I should be able to pick and choose our programming. When I go to the supermarket, to buy apples and grapefruits, the store doesn’t make me buy potatoes, kumquats and frozen pasta.”

Rosemary Devers: “You taught your people how to be politely rude on the telephone.”

Supporters of the city’s public access channels, which the city would like to expand with Comcast’s help, also spoke during Tuesday’s hearings.

Comcast officials were on hand to say they’re listening and trying to improve; they say staff members will attend all the city’s hearings to help resolve individual customers’ issues where possible.

The hearings are part of the city’s negotiations over its franchise agreement with Comcast — the deal that gives Comcast the right to dig up city streets and hang its cables from public utility poles. Under the current franchise deal, Comcast pays about $16 million a year for that access.

That deal expires this fall, and city officials hope the new one will require Comcast to upgrade its network, improve customer service, expand broadband access and simplify its bills.

The hearings continue through Saturday.

Hearings before City Council on the same subject will take place later this spring.

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