Nutter signs 15-year franchise deal with Comcast
A new deal with Comcast promises enhanced customer service standards and increased internet access for seniors and low-income residents in Philadelphia.
On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation which establishes a new cable franchise agreement with Comcast. These deals allow cable providers to operate in cities. As providers need access to many city-owned spaces to lay cable and spread access to customers, companies must seek permission from the city to use these spaces.
Cities are allowed to negotiate certain provisions with provider in the deal. This includes a cut of the revenue collected from customers living inside limits.
The legislation signed by Nutter on Tuesday was approved by City Council two weeks ago after about eight months of negotiations. The deal gives Comcast permission to operate in Philadelphia for the next 15 years.
“This legislation ensures that internet accessibility and adoption is easier, no matter your age or income level, that customers receive improved service and that the City will be able to do more business online in the coming years,” said Nutter in a statement.
The city will get five percent Comcast’s cable revenues in addition to the provisions below announced by City Hall:
Close to a $400 million investment by Comcast over the next 15 years to enhance customer service standards, cable system remediation, franchise fee payments, commitment to public access programming and a multi-million dollar investment to bridge digital divide.
A much needed high-speed data network connecting more than 225 municipal buildings and remote sites to enable government agencies to deliver faster, more reliable and convenient services to customers, residents and visitors. This is a critical anchor for government to modernize communications and service delivery across Philadelphia.
Several programs to connect thousands of low-income households and low-income seniors to the Internet, through Comcast’s Internet Essentials. These investments also recognize that access to the Internet alone does not guarantee adoption. The programs include a comprehensive approach to digital literacy, access to low-cost equipment and seed funding for a digital literacy alliance to incentivize more stakeholders to address the digital divide.
As Juliana Reyes of Technical.ly Philly reported earlier this month, advocates in the city raised the issues they had with the deal during multiple public hearings. During the final hearing, issues raised involved the process customers go through to gain access to the cheaper Internet Essentials service. Comcast required these customers to not be connected to Comcast internet for 90 days before becoming eligible for the Essentials service. Advocates said for those who are Comcast customers already, this meant going without Internet for 90 days.
Comcast agreed to create a five-year amnesty program to waive that requirement, according to Philly Voice. The deal also included the creation of a virtual customer care program in Philly, hiring between 150 to 200 city residents to work on the program.
“Today’s official signing of a renewed franchise agreement – together with the supplemental commitments we made – reflect our unique relationship to our hometown,“ said Jim Samaha, regional senior vice president of Comcast’s Freedom Region. “It is an honor to lead the region and employees who serve the customers and businesses in our headquarter city, and we look forward to continuing to deliver best-in-class products and services and customer experience improvements.
Comcast will also contribute $18 million towards public, education and governmental access funding, provide wireless internet access in certain public areas and supply a $500,000 grant to create the Digital Inclusion Alliance fund which seeks to address digital inequality in Philly.