Litany of complaints and requests at public hearing on Comcast Philly franchise agreement

 The Comcast Center, Philadelphia (NewsWorks file photo)

The Comcast Center, Philadelphia (NewsWorks file photo)

Comcast’s 15-year franchise agreement with the City of Philadelphia is up for renewal.

City Council hearings brought up many issues with the cable giant. 

Todd O’Boyle of the group Common Cause, a lobbying organization promoting transparency in government, was among those complaining about Comcast service. O’Boyle said the company has a de facto monopoly in too many Philadelphia neighborhoods.

“While Verizon may deliver service in some neighborhoods and some households it doesn’t overlap one-for-one with Comcast and far too many consumers find that they do not have alternatives for services that meet the federal definition of broadband, so there’s quite a lot that locks people into contracts that they don’t want to have,” O’Boyle said.

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Comcast regional manager Jim Samaha said the franchise agreement does not bar other companies from competing for customers and Comcast is working to expand service in the city.

“Over the past five years alone Comcast has invested $270 million in its network here,” he said. He also touted how the company has grown its discounted Internet Essentials program for low-income customers.

Lance Haver, civic engagement director for council, had a list of things he thinks the cable giant should do as part of the new 15-year deal.

“Matching the lowest prices offered in Comcast franchises across the country, offering the same senior discounts that Comcast offers in other franchises. Having a consumer call center, not a virtual call center like other Comcast franchise areas have, a one-year rate freeze much like a signing bonus that other companies and that other individuals get,” he said.

Following the marathon hearing, it’s likely City Council will require changes to the deal before final approval.

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