MMP Launches CAP Comcast Campaign

CAP Comcast Campaign Launches; Pushes for Philadelphia to Negotiate Fair Cable Franchise for Our Communities

For Immediate Release:  Hannah Sassaman,

hannah@mediamobilizing.org, 267-970-4007

Bryan Mercer, bryan@mediamobilizing.org, 215-439-5056

The Philadelphia-based Comcast Corporation and the City of Philadelphia are working to negotiate a new “franchise” deal, aimed at renewing the current 15-year contract that allows Comcast to use public property to sell cable services in Philadelphia. In response to this process, the Philadelphia-based Media Mobilizing Project is announcing the launch of the CAP Comcast (Corporate Accountability Project) campaign. CAP Comcast will bring together individuals, organizations, and communities to powerfully inform Philadelphia on what we need from another potential Comcast franchise.

Housed at www.capcomcast.org, this campaign aims to work with thousands of Philadelphia residents to shape the City’s negotiations with Comcast over the next two years.  The current Comcast franchise expires at the end of 2015.

“During the last franchise negotiation, Philadelphia elected officials and appointed leaders secured important resources for our city, including funds for public access television, and about $17 million a year for Philadelphia’s general fund,” said Bryan Mercer, co-Executive Director at Media Mobilizing Project. “But since that time, Philadelphia has shuttered over 20 schools and slashed services that our communities need.  Comcast pays less than 4% in corporate tax revenue, in a state where the average is almost 10%. And they’re getting $40 million in subsidies for their new planned building. If Comcast wants a chance to profit from our communities, Philadelphia should ensure Comcast pays their fair share, or invite other communications companies to serve our city.”

Media Mobilizing Project and the CAP Comcast campaign have begun collecting stories from individuals struggling with Comcast bills, as well as with community members who want Philadelphia to ensure that Comcast will protect consumers and support public services in exchange for another franchise deal.

“Comcast accesses our streets – our public rights of way – to sell cable and other services in Philadelphia,” said Hannah Sassaman, Policy Director at Media Mobilizing Project. “At the same time, they are earning huge profits here and nationally, and planning to merge with Time-Warner Cable.  Comcast has lobbied to stop City Council from passing bills that would expand paid sick days to hundreds of thousands of workers who don’t have them, and their executives have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Governor Corbett, who has cut over a billion dollars from Pennsylvania education. Comcast should freeze rates for consumers, fund public education, protect workers’ rights, and make internet services work for everyone who needs them, if it wants a new franchise to serve our communities.”

“I tried to get Internet Essentials service when my son brought a flyer home from school,” said Dawn Hawkins, a low-income mother of two and a leader with the local organizing group Action United, speaking about Internet Essentials, the low-cost internet services available to some low-income community members in areas Comcast serves.  “Because I owed $53 from ten years ago, they didn’t let me access the service.  If Comcast wants another deal with Philadelphia they need to change the Internet Essentials program, and make internet available to help parents in our community.”

Organizers from Media Mobilizing Project and the CAP Comcast campaign plan to work to help Philadelphians share their views with the city as they undertake their negotiation with Comcast.  The City’s Office of Innovation and Technology has already begun a comprehensive survey of Philadelphians, asking them to share their cable television related needs and interests, and also covering a host of other questions about communications access.  According to press reports, Philadelphia will hold up to three hearings around the franchise renewal. City Council must vote on the draft franchise deal as well. Previous franchises have secured important resources for public access television, and revenues for Philadelphia’s general fund. Now, many Philadelphians are asking for more.

“It is unrealistic to expect students to succeed if money isn't invested into our education, as well as the technology we need to succeed in school and at home,” said Madeline Clapier, a senior at Philadelphia public high school Constitution High.  “If Comcast wants a strong relationship with every public school, they should invest in us with their new franchise, committing to every child's education."

Raymond Yuan, another senior at Constitution High and an intern at the National Archives of Philadelphia, continued, “Comcast is profiting hugely from a monopoly on high-speed internet in Philly.  Verizon FiOS is not available to everyone in the city.  Until then, there is no competition to Comcast for most of us for consumers. If it is getting a monopoly, Comcast should increase support for public services and safety for all, and fund the deficit in our public schools."

“What happens in Philadelphia has a big impact on our communications rights nationally,” said Steven Renderos, the national organizer for the Media Action Grassroots Network, a network of organizations focused on communications rights in cities and towns across the United States. “Comcast’s record of service in its own hometown means a lot for hundreds of other communities who have franchises coming up for negotiation in the next years.  And for those of us with doubts about a potential merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, knowing that we have the power to speak to our local elected officials and ask for franchises that serve all of us is huge.  That’s why we’re supporting Philly as it works for a fair Comcast franchise, and why any community that isn’t getting what it needs from its local cable provider should follow their lead.”

CAP Comcast is a new campaign focused on helping Philadelphia communities work with the City of Philadelphia to secure a fair new cable franchise with Comcast. Visit the campaign at http://www.capcomcast.org.

Media Mobilizing Project collaborates with poor and working people to tell the untold stories that help end poverty.  MMP helped lead a process that secured millions in federal stimulus funds for Philadelphia partners aimed at ending the digital divide.  In March 2013, MMP helped bring the public's attention to the fact that Comcast had spent over $100,000 to block City Council's bill to expand paid sick days to hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia workers: http://www.mediamobilizing.org/updates/updated-w-video-philadelphians-deliver-over-60000-signatures-urging-council-stand-families. To learn more about Media Mobilizing Project, visit http://www.mediamobilizing.org or email info@mediamobilizing.org