The Resources and Access Philadelphia Needs
Everyone in Philadelphia deserves access to quality education, good jobs, and dignified lives. Our incredible community of entrepreneurs, culture, and change makers should be able to innovate and compete. Philadelphia can and must do better.
But here, in the poorest big city in the United States, we struggle with glaring inequality. Our hometown media giant, Comcast, is the biggest media company in the world, valued at over $130 billion, and earning record profits. While they build a new, subsidized corporate tower to accompany their tax-abated headquarters, our school district is desperate for revenue.
Studies show that many of us have no broadband access at home – including thousands of poor people and people of color. When businesses, community groups, and individuals struggle to pay the high costs of internet, our communities and economy suffer.
Now is our time to bridge these divides.
Comcast’s 15-year deal that lets it sell cable in Philadelphia – its “franchise agreement” – expires in 2015. Comcast is required to negotiate a fair agreement with our City officials that provides resources to our city in exchange for access to the public rights of way required for its business.
The renegotiation of Comcast’s franchise agreement this year is a tremendous opportunity for City Council and the Mayor to secure Philadelphia’s communications and community future. We call on our city’s leaders to make Philadelphia a world-leader in education and innovation by negotiating a franchise that does not pass costs onto consumers, and includes the below:
A. Fund Education by paying for a Technology Teacher Leader at each of the Philadelphia School District’s (PSD) 218 schools. Comcast should also refurbish all of the computer labs in the PSD’s K-8 schools, provide technology suites of hardware for all K-5 schools, a computing device for each student in grades 6-12, and an expansion of the Computer Support Specialist program.
B. Expand Affordable Internet by expanding the Internet Essentials program to far more low-income people, including seniors, people with disabilities, people living in publically subsidized housing, and others who struggle to get online. The program should also provide increased broadband speeds to meet the 25 mpbs definition of broadband, and limit onerous paperwork and other barriers. Comcast should also fund expansion of discounted or free internet services to unserved and underserved neighborhoods, and to unserved recreation centers, community centers, and other institutions.
C. Boost Innovation. As a condition of a new franchise, Comcast should plan to upgrade its network to fiber optics, beginning by offering this faster service at affordable rates to schools, businesses, and nonprofits across the city, including in poor neighborhoods. Comcast should also fund a robust Institutional Network, either City owned or controlled.
D. Increases Accountability and Competition. As a condition of a new franchise, Comcast should waive its “right of first refusal,” and agree to not block Philadelphia efforts to pursue municipal broadband or other public/private partnerships that would bring real competition to thousands of our neighbors. The City should also form a community advisory board to help govern the franchise and protect consumers.
E. Protects Workers’ Rights. As a condition of a new franchise, Comcast should agree to not block its own workers’ rights to organize in Philadelphia, and to guarantee them at least $15/hr in wages to all of its workers and contractors. Comcast should also be required to pay the prevailing wage to its employees, as defined by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
F. Supports Diverse, Community Media, Especially Our Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) Access Television. The next franchise should maintain and increase support to government and educational television channels in the city, and to PhillyCAM, the city’s public access TV station and community media and training center. Comcast should also consider opening its channel space to other distinct community voices.
This platform is subject to change, and does not encompass all of what we hope for and will push the City to secure in a new franchise. We look forward to learning more about the details of the negotiation as it moves, and will adapt this platform accordingly.
This is the first step in a long negotiation process between our City and this hugely important company in our city and in the world. Let’s make sure the City knows we’re united for the communications services we all need, and for the resources our communities deserve.