Philadelphia, April 9, 2015 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter released a 571-page report on community needs and a technical review of the Comcast cable television system as part of a franchise renewal process involving the City’s four franchise areas. The 15-year cable television franchise agreement, which expires later this year, authorizes Comcast, the current franchise holder, to use public “rights-of-way” for an agreed term of years to operate its cable system and deliver cable service.
While endorsing the detailed set of recommendations in the report as part of the City’s on-going negotiations with Comcast, Mayor Nutter said the City is also seeking a range of additional improvements in the next franchise agreement, and he announced a significant new level of franchise oversight as part of the current and future agreements.
“When Comcast signaled the start of the franchise renewal process in 2012, this Administration decided that cable customers and the City deserved a first-ever needs assessment report. Since then, we’ve hired CBG, a respected consultant, to work with us. We opened public proceedings in early 2013 and we now have a detailed set of recommendations as we focus on achieving a new franchise agreement with the company,” said Mayor Nutter. “I fully endorse the report’s recommendations, but they are not the only issues we are raising with the company. We need changes now and for the future, and to that end City government is strengthening its capacity to engage in regulatory oversight to ensure these improvements are maintained each and every day.”
The Mayor said the existing office, Cable Franchise Authority, will be expanded to include the monitoring, oversight and audit responsibilities moving forward. He said the City is planning for an office of 4 to 5 individuals with technical, telecommunications, accounting, and cable franchise expertise to carry out the duties of the expanded Cable Franchise Authority office.
The City will be seeking in the new agreement a range of improvements recommended in the report, including: retaining and upgrading to high definition all 12 Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) Access Channels; requiring stronger customer service standards and a remediation program to address code compliance issues; and seeking a fiber-based infrastructure (or I-Net) for city government telecommunications so that the city may deliver faster, more efficient services.
In addition, Mayor Nutter said that while it would not be prudent to disclose the City’s entire negotiating strategy, he wanted to indicate some of the other improvements that the City is seeking from Comcast. “Our City’s future success relates to everyone being connected to the internet and the marketplace of ideas and products. Comcast is a vital partner in helping Philadelphia achieve that level of success,” Mayor Nutter said.
Specifically, the City will be seeking high speed broadband capacity and computing technology to support the City’s KeySpots locations and libraries; free broadband access in areas designated as “unserved” or “underserved” or PhillyRising neighborhoods; a program to provide computers and digital literacy education opportunities; and high speed broadband capacity to support the local tech and startup communities, and broadband co-working facilities throughout Philadelphia.
The CBG report includes the compilation and statistical analysis of the results from a scientific, random sample, telephone survey of 800 Philadelphia residents (400 Comcast subscribers and 400 non-subscribers) each of whom were asked questions about their cable-related needs and interests and their experiences, if any, with Comcast’s cable service. To reach as many Philadelphia residents as possible, a separate online and written survey was also conducted covering the same topics to which more than 3200 city residents responded.
Among the results from the telephone survey is that Philadelphia’s cable subscribers reported satisfaction levels ranging from one to eleven percent (1%- 11%) lower than Comcast franchise areas in selected markets where similar studies were completed in the last six years. Overall, however, the survey found that 74% of Comcast cable subscribers are satisfied with their cable service.
In addition to customer satisfaction surveys, the report also contains data collected from a wide-ranging technical review to evaluate Comcast’s residential and business cable television subscriber network to ensure compliance with the City’s franchise agreement and applicable codes, and to assess the condition and operation of the Comcast’s cable infrastructure. CBG found maintenance and code compliance failures.
The completion and release of the Community Needs Assessment Report does not conclude the City’s efforts to gather as much feedback as it can from citizen’s about their needs, interests and perspectives related to cable service in the city. As part of its on-going negotiating process and its continuing efforts to assess the community’s cable-related needs and interests, the City will conduct a series of public forums beginning the week of April 27, 2015. The exact date, time and location of these public forums will be announced shortly.
In addition to attending one of the City’s scheduled public meetings, citizens can also provide feedback to the City at:
Voicemail: Call 215-686-8125 to leave a message.
Mail: Cable Franchise Authority
Attn: Cable Television Administrator
City Hall, Room 702
Philadelphia, PA 19107