RELEASE: Communities Across Philadelphia Praise Historic Comcast Cable Franchise

PHILADELPHIA – Today, the full City Council of the City of Philadelphia overwhelmingly passed a 15-year Comcast communications franchise with far reaching public benefits for low-income communities, and for all Comcast customers, now and into the future.  The franchise now goes for final signature to Mayor Michael Nutter.

The Comcast franchise that Council passed today is already recognized across the country as historic in its gains for low-income communities.  

This franchise will produce:

  • more cable and internet discounts
  • increased customer service protections
  • expansions of affordable internet and free internet access, including the loosening of the restriction forcing current, otherwise-eligible Comcast internet customers to turn off their existing service for 90 days to access Internet Essentials, and new free wifi service at municipal buildings citywide, funded by Comcast, and
  • greater protections for cable and internet consumers and workers

than almost any cable franchise nationwide.

In particular, side letters accompanying this franchise, and negotiated by City Council, the City of Philadelphia and Comcast, offer an historic and unprecedented expansion of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to low income communities across Philadelphia.  

These side letters also include an expansion of Career and Technology Education at the Philadelphia Public Schools, funded by Comcast, and a guarantee that all Comcast workers, contractors, and subcontractors will earn at least a living wage and for work paid for by the City, a higher prevailing wage.

The provisions of the Philadelphia deal were considered so groundbreaking that earlier this week, the City of Seattle paused their franchise negotiation with Comcast, and refused to proceed with it until Comcast granted extended digital inclusion benefits as a part of their negotiation.

For over two years, community members from myriad Philadelphia neighborhoods - seniors from the far Northeast, immigrants from South Philadelphia, parents from North Philadelphia, high school students from Germantown and West Philly, and many others - came together as the Corporate Accountability Project - Comcast (CAP Comcast) Coalition to imagine what resources Comcast could provide our Philadelphia communities, in their own hometown.

In a city with the third worst broadband access of any big city in America, they focused on Comcast expanding affordable internet and cable to thousands more low income people.  In a city with struggling public schools, they pushed Comcast to make a meaningful commitment to technology resources and education.  And in the poorest big city in America, they pushed Comcast to protect its own workers’ right to dignified wages, and its own consumers’ rights to affordable and reliable service.

Below please find statements below from members of the CAP Comcast coalition, marking today’s historic passage of the 15-year Comcast cable franchise from City Council.

"PCAPS is proud of the leadership Philadelphia students, parents, and educators took in pushing Comcast to pay its fair share to the City of Philadelphia,” said retired middle school teacher, and coordinator of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, Ron Whitehorne.

“Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, Councilman Bobby Henon, the rest of City Council, and the Administration should also be proud of their success in pushing Comcast to provide more funding to the Philadelphia public schools, as well as crafting a new Career and Tech Education plan and program for Philly public school students and grads at Comcast.  This is just one step in our continued work to make sure Comcast expands tech education resources for our youth, and that corporations profiting in Philadelphia pay their fair share to our public schools."

"On behalf of the many faith communities representing neighbors across Philadelphia, I want to congratulate Mayor Nutter, City Council, and the thousands of people who pushed them to pass the best Comcast franchise in the United States," said Rev. Gregory Holston of New Vision United Methodist Church and the interfaith POWER coalition.  

"POWER members, 45 congregations representing almost 40,000 Philadelphians, advocated for Comcast to expand affordable internet to low-income communities citywide, to support technology education in our public schools, and to respect Comcast workers and consumers.  

We are especially grateful to Councilman Wilson Goode for fighting to make sure Comcast workers earned living and prevailing wages in Philadelphia - and for almost doubling Comcast's business contracting commitments to businesses owned by women and people of color. We will continue working with City Council and the Mayor's office to implement these victories, pushing to hold Comcast accountable for even more resources to help everyone communicate in Philadelphia. Today, was another step forward in POWER's vision to build a city of opportunity that works for all."

"On behalf of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, I want to recognize the tremendous coalition that was involved in ensuring the passage of a franchise agreement that prioritizes the needs of every Philadelphian,” said Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

“City Council was instrumental in making sure the voices of our city were heard in the process. The Media Mobilizing Project, too, played a very significant role in elevating the community's power. With increased access to affordable internet, the removal of the 90 day hold period, as well as Comcast's commitment to CTE programs, our children and families will directly benefit from this franchise agreement."

ACTION United, a powerful membership organization that organizes low and moderate income communities to win changes impacting them and their families, has challenged the barriers Comcast used to keep low income communities from using their Internet Essentials discount internet program for years.  

As a part of CAP Comcast, the parents, seniors, and community residents of ACTION United successfully pushed Comcast to expand access to Internet Essentials to far more low income people, and to loosen a barrier keeping many low income people offline - the requirement that existing Comcast internet customers turn off their service for 90 days to access the program.

"These improvements to Internet Essentials will help thousands of people," said southwest Philadelphia's Malique Diarra, a member of ACTION United.  "And City Council, especially leaders like Councilman Greenlee and Councilwoman Bass, should feel very proud for pushing Comcast to loosen the requirement that otherwise qualified customers turn off their existing internet for 90 days to access Internet Essentials.   

But there are more steps to go.  Comcast is showing us they have huge power on whether or not low income people like me get online.  We will continue to push Comcast to expand affordable internet to everyone who needs it, and to remove the requirement that we pay off back bills a year or younger to access the program. In Comcast's hometown, we must make sure that everyone can cross the digital divide."

"Pennsylvania Working Families applauds all the Philadelphians who came out to testify and fight for a fair Comcast franchise agreement, and thanks Mayor Nutter and many members of the Philly City Council for their hard work in negotiating the deal," said Kati Sipp, executive director of Pennsylvania Working Families. "Our work isn't done, but this agreement secured many benefits for the city, including expansion and improvement of the Internet Essentials program for low-income communities, a guarantee that all Comcast workers, contractors and subcontractors will make at least a living wage, and an increased commitment to our schools. Comcast makes huge profits in Philly while receiving major property tax breaks, and we must continue to demand that they give back to our community in exchange for our city's continued business."

The CAP Comcast coalition notes that members of City Council took particular leadership in advocating for the needs of community members as a part of this franchise.  We at the CAP Comcast coalition extend our big thanks and congratulations to Councilman Bobby Henon and Council President Darryl Clarke for shepherding the Comcast franchise process, and for never failing to listen to the communities of consumers most impacted by Comcast’s role in Philadelphia.

We congratulate Councilman Mark Squilla and Councilman David Oh for pushing for more support for our award-winning public access TV station, PhillyCAM, and our educational and government access TV stations.  

We celebrate and thank Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez for focusing deeply on expanding Comcast’s accountability to our public schools, and congratulate her on leading and crafting the Career and Technology Education program Comcast will now pilot with our public school students.  And we applaud and congratulate Councilman Wilson Goode for advocating for workers’ rights associated with the franchise, and for successfully securing expanded minority and women-owned business participation in Comcast’s work in Philadelphia.

We applaud Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Councilman Bill Greenlee for pushing to expand affordable internet access to low-income communities, with a particular focus on removing the 90-day shutoff barrier keeping otherwise-qualified Philly applicants from accessing the Internet Essentials program.  We congratulate Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilman Brian O’Neill, Councilman Dennis O'Brien, Councilwoman Marian Tasco, and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson for pushing for more discounts for seniors and for expanded access to the internet for low income communities.

For more information about CAP Comcast’s positions on what was secured as a part of or in side letters accompanying this franchise, please refer to our press statement from Dec. 3rd, 2015:  http://mediamobilizing.org/updates/media-mobilizing-project-statement-committee-passage-historic-comcast-franchise-agreement

The CAP Comcast campaign is endorsed by over 5000 Philadelphians, and groups including the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Media Mobilizing Project, ACTION United, Pennsylvania Working Families, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Philadelphia Student Union, Maypop, Liberty Resources, Women’s Community Revitalization Project, Prometheus Radio Project, Get Lucid, Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, UNITE HERE! Local 247, and others. Visit us at http://www.capcomcast.org.