By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A study commissioned by the Nutter administration finds that more than one-quarter of all Comcast customers in Philadelphia are dissatisfied with their cable and/or Internet service.
The mayor released those findings today as part of the city’s ongoing negotiations with Comcast on new franchise agreements.
The mayor made public his administration’s 570-page report on the Comcast cable system in Philadelphia, and it includes the results of a telephone survey of 800 residents, half of them current Comcast customers.
“Twenty-six percent of Comcast cable subscribers were dissatisfied overall with their cable service,” the mayor said. “If you’re an elected official, that translates into a 74-percent approval rating — which in my line of business is incredible. But this is not my line of business.”
Nutter said that in the cable business, those satisfaction levels are, in fact, lower than similar studies in other comparable Comcast markets.
The survey was conducted at the behest of the administration by a national consultancy, CBG. Nutter said the report provides a road map for the administration as negotiations with Comcast on new franchise agreements continue.
“The city will seek, of course, remedies and improvements to enhance the cable customer experience for all Comcast subscribers, wherever they may live,” Nutter said.
He said this will include seeking broadband capacity and improved technology to support libraries and other key locations, free broadband access in underserved neighborhoods, and other new levels of support.
Comcast representatives were in the mayor’s reception room for today’s press briefing, and one, LeAnn Talbot, senior vice president for this region, disputed the customer satisfaction findings.
“We believe there are flaws in the findings, and will prove that to the city,” she said.
Talbot would not elaborate, but another company official promised to provide specifics to KYW Newsradio.
A short time later, Comcast officials provided a list of issues it has with the survey. For example, Comcast says, the survey respondents included people at addresses that don’t exist, and the firm says the report “relies on unsubstantiated estimates of projected problems and recollections of people surveyed.”
Also watching the news conference today were advocates for wider Internet access. Among them, Hannah Sassaman, policy director at the Media Mobilizing Project, called on Mayor Nutter to push for affordable rates and fewer hurdles in the company’s low-income “Internet Essentials” program.
“We’re the third-worst city for broadband penetration in the United States,” she said. “And Comcast can do better.”
Sassaman said these negotiations are crucial because Internet access is no longer a luxury.
“It’s like water. It’s like air. It’s like gas. This is a human right in our society,” she said, “so it’s a once-in-a-generation negotiation, and we support City Council and the mayor pushing for a fair franchise.”
The current franchise agreements — four of them covering all portions of the city — expire later this year. The mayor said the city will continue to seek input from Comcast customers and will host six public forums across the city during the week of April 27th.
The full report, and information on those forums and other ways to offer feedback, are at the City of Philadelphia’s web site, phila.gov/cablefranchises.
City Council plans its own hearings.