Comcast’s New Philadelphia Agreement Irks Seattle City Hall

Comcast Center's tower, center right, rises behind the historic clocktower of Philadelphia City Hall.

Comcast Center's tower, center right, rises behind the historic clocktower of Philadelphia City Hall. David Reilly / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The cable giant’s pending franchise deal has been put on ice in the Emerald City.

After Philadephia-based Comcast inked a 15-year franchising deal with city officials in its hometown on Thursday, it’s not necessarily surprising that other cities might be reviewing the agreement—which the cable giant called the best in the nation—to see where they measure up.

On Friday, officials at Seattle City Hall put Comcast on notice that they’re not pleased and have put the brakes on their own pending franchise agreement for the Pacific Northwest’s largest city, where Comcast currently has around 150,000 customers.

Here’s why: As The Inquirer reports, Comcast’s Philly deal offers a broad package of community benefits:

Both sides favorably described the deal, which includes added discounts for low-income Philadelphians, commitments to paying workers a living wage, and installation of a new network in more than 200 city buildings.

With digital equity being a big issue in Seattle, city officials were surprised by the added discounts for low-income residents in Philadelphia.

“Affordability and equity are core values in our Seattle community,” Michael Mattmiller, the city of Seattle’s chief technology officer, told GeekWire.

In a letter sent to Steve Holmes, Comcast Cable’s western division vice president for government affairs, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Bruce Harrell expressed their disappointment in how the Philly deal stacks up to an agreement that has not yet been finalized in Seattle.

“Having seen the commitment towards equity and affordability in Philadelphia, we believe the people of Seattle deserve the same level of commitment from Comcast,” Murray and Harrell wrote.

A final vote on Seattle’s franchise agreement by the City Council had been scheduled for Monday, but Murray and Harrell wrote that consideration of Council Bill 118549 will be put on hold to allow time for Comcast to work with the city to “identify additional opportunities to lower the cost of Comcast’s internet service for those with low incomes, thus increasing internet access, and to identify opportunities to further enhance digital equity in our City.”

A Comcast spokesman told GeekWire that the company was open to "additional dialogue."

In November, the Seattle City Council rejected legislation to establish a $5 million municipal broadband pilot project that was envisioned as a way forward to create a city-administered utility to provide Internet access.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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