Philadelphia residents blitzed Comcast with a litany of grievances during the fifth hearing on Thursday night at Martin Luther King High School.
About 25 customers showed up with just about everybody grabbing the microphone to complain about customer service, property taxes, broadband access, and inconsistent costs.
“Comcast began as a public service, but now monopolizes cable television and ignores the public’s needs,” said Eric Holmes of Germantown.
“You ask me to pay more than my fair share for the idea of 24/7 internet, but I don’t get 24/7 internet,” said customer Allison Erchinson. “And then it’s ridiculous that a big, giant corporation like Comcast doesn’t pay its fair share in property taxes.”
Karen Montgomery spoke on behalf of PhillyCAM, the city’s public access television channel, which officials are hoping to expand with increased funding from Comcast.
“PhillyCAM allows us to spread positive messages that not a lot of TV shows do throughout the city,” Montgomery said.
Carol Duncan, an ordained minister at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill, asked for Comcast to pay PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) and raise its minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour.
The hearings are part of the Community Needs Assessment—a process used in the city’s negotiations over its franchise agreement with Comcast. The corporation currently pays about $16 million a year for the right to dig up city streets and hang its cables from public utility poles as part of the agreement.
Comcast representatives were in attendance at the hearing but did not address the complaints.
In a statement to NewsWorks on Thursday, Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander said, “We attended each of the sessions, and appreciated the opportunity to listen directly to feedback from local citizens, customers and advocacy groups.
While much of the dialogue addressed desires or concerns that are outside the scope of what can be part of a franchise agreement, we can share that many of the topics, like customer service, are already areas we are aggressively working to transform. We also had several of our best customer care representatives at each forum so they could address specific customer questions and concerns.
As we move into the next phase of the franchise renewal process, we look forward to productive discussions and to finalizing an agreement that will serve our hometown customers and city well now and for years to come.”
The four cable franchise agreements between Comcast and city government expire in August, September, and October.
The committee overseeing the hearing consisted of assessment consultants Tom Robinson, President of CBG Communications, lead researcher Dr. Constance Book, Steve Robertson, Deputy CIO of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology, and Marcel Bassett, Program Manager of the Mayor’s Office.