New Orleans Just to be clear. It’s not just me, ACORN International, Local 100 United Labor Unions, and the Arkansas Community Organizations who are ripping mad at Comcast for high rates, bad service, and making a cruel joke out of the “internet essentials” program rather than using it to help lower income families crawl over the digital divide: it’s all of Philly, too! Our partner, Action United, showed up and stood up at the first hearing in Philly on whether or not the Comcast franchise agreement should be renewed or renegotiated in Comcast’s home city. They kicked it, as you can read from the Philadelphia Inquirer story. Let’s see if Comcast finally hears what we’re saying. Or, not?
Bob Fernandez, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 1:08 AM
City residents complained Tuesday about everything from Comcast Corp.’s troubled customer service to TV rates and corporate taxes during Philadelphia’s first public hearings on the cable giant’s request to renew its citywide franchise agreements.
“We here in Philadelphia are very angry with you,” Monica Rozin said at the mostly calm noon hearing in the basement of a public library off Rittenhouse Square. “Technology gets less expensive and you get more so.”
In the late afternoon, about 40 people held a rally outside South Philadelphia High School – the site of a second hearing – calling for Comcast to “pay its fair share” of taxes, expand a program for affordable Internet service, and freeze rates.
Activists also called for the company to continue funding PhillyCAM – public-access television channels and a studio.
The rally was organized by the nonprofit Media Mobilizing Project, a frequent Comcast critic, and joined by other organizations involved with disabled individuals, workers’ rights, and low-income housing.
“Remember, this is a deal,” Lance Haver, the city’s director of civic engagement, said at the 30-minute rally. “Comcast wants our rights-of-way and rights to our public spaces, and we have every right to demand what we want.”
About 60 people attended the hearing at Southern High. Many of them also attended the rally.
The hearings are part of a renewal process that began in 2013 and has gathered some speed this month with Mayor Nutter’s release of a 571-page consultant survey of the city’s cable- and Internet-related needs.
The four cable franchise agreements between Comcast and the city government expire in August, September, and October.
“We love Philadelphia, and value the strong partnership we have with the city and its residents, and are extremely proud of the world-class services we deliver here, as well as the significant benefits that are afforded by our franchise,” Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander said Tuesday.
“In Philadelphia, Comcast has provided more than $163 million in franchise fees in the past 10 years and delivers 12 PEG [public, educational, and government access] channels for community use, along with substantial financial support,” he added.
Alexander said Comcast, which employs 8,000 workers at its headquarters and other facilities in the city, looks to have “a comprehensive and productive dialogue with city officials.”
Emotions ran high at times at the noon meeting, attended by about 40 people. But for the most part, the speakers were respectful, laughing and clapping.
Mike Miller, a 20-year city resident, feared that his Social Security number might fall into the wrong hands. “I would like them to destroy the Social Security numbers in their files and replace them with non-identifying numbers,” he said.
Oren Panitch, a Northern Liberties resident and Web developer, said, “We should be the shining example of what [Comcast] can bring to the rest of the country, but instead they want to charge more.”
Rosemary Devers of South Philadelphia said, “I’ve got a number of complaints.” One of them, she said, was talking with Comcast customer call representatives in the Philippines when she has a problem.
The next hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the MAST Community Charter School at 1800 Byberry St. Another will be at noon Thursday at the Community Center at Visitation, 2646 Kensington Ave.
The last two are at 5 p.m. Thursday at Martin Luther King High School, 6100 Stenton Ave., and noon Saturday at Bible Way Baptist Church, 1323 N. 52d St.