By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City Council plans to hold a hearing on what some perceive to be foot-dragging by the Nutter administration. At issue are looming negotiations between the city and Comcast on new franchise agreements in Philadelphia.
Comcast has four franchises covering the entire city, and they all expire later this year. Councilman Bobby Henon wants to know why the Nutter administration has not yet released its report on what should be in the next agreements, dubbed the “Needs and Interests Assessment.”
So, Henon is calling for a public hearing to demand a release of the report.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us as a body to make sure that we have public input,” Henon says, “and we thoroughly review the needs assessment, as we negotiate a final franchise agreement with Comcast.”
But Mayor Nutter says the “needs assessment” report — more than a year in the making — is not ready.
“I do not have the report, but it is going through a process of review,” says the mayor. “When that process is complete — I do not know when it will be complete, but we’ll work on it expeditiously — we’ll obviously release it. It is, as I understand it, a quite voluminous report with a lot of details. And we want to make sure that a) its accurate, b) we understand what’s in it, c) the company has a fair opportunity to read it and review it for themselves.”
The “needs assessment” report will form the basis for negotiations between the city and Comcast on new agreements. It includes the city’s public opinion surveys of Comcast. Critics of this process claim the Administration is stalling in order to reduce the amount of time for public debate. Henon wonders the same.
“I think it makes better business (sense) to hear the community,” Henon says, “and have equal time to properly vet and thoroughly review the franchise agreement and needs assessment.”
Critics of Comcast also object to the administration’s decision to let Comcast review the report before it is made public. Nutter insists that Comcast will not be allowed to make revisions.
“There will be no changes. The report is the report,” Nutter says. “I can appreciate that folks have that concern. I understand that concern. That is not an issue at all. There is no ability by the company to change anything. They can point out, from their perspective, if they think there are inaccuracies or concerns or whatever the case may. But there will be no changes to the report.”
Nutter insists the administration will be “diligent but methodical” as it moves forward with new franchise agreements. His spokesman says negotiations between the city and the cable giant are “imminent.”
Final agreements for all four franchises would be subject to City Council approval. A spokesman for Comcast said the firm is not commenting on the matter at this time.