Last week, the full City Council of Philadelphia overwhelmingly passed a 15-year cable franchise agreement with one of its most powerful residents: Comcast. Under the new agreement, Comcast will provide the city with 5 percent of its gross revenues from Philadelphia cable service – the maximum amount permitted under federal law – plus an additional $21.3 million to fund 11 public, education and government access channels.
MDF grantee Media Mobilizing Project, which led a two-year CAP Comcast community education campaign about the negotiations, says that the agreement will have “far reaching public benefits for low-income communities, and for all Comcast customers.” Against the backdrop of an education funding crisis in Philadelphia, the campaign drew significant media attention to these issues and put pressure on Comcast to fulfill its obligations to its home city.
MMP reports that the new franchise agreement includes:
- 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 Wi-Fi service at municipal buildings citywide, funded by Comcast
- Greater protections for cable and internet consumers and workers
The concessions that Philadelphia managed to win from Comcast represent an historic shift in power, and cities around the country have begun to notice. MDF expects that Seattle, which took a tougher position with Comcast during its own negotiations, may be just the first city to follow Philadelphia’s lead.