By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today was the first opportunity for public feedback from Comcast subscribers as the City of Philadelphia negotiates the renewal of its long-term franchise agreements with the cable giant.

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At the Free Library branch on West Rittenhouse Square, during this first of six public forums this week, Comcast customers with pent-up frustrations sounded off.

“Comcast has horrible technical support and customer service,” said one man.  “I think the only way to repair this issue is to have competition in cable.”

“I called 45 minutes — no answer,” testified one woman, repeating, “No answer.”

Several people want the city to push for more affordable rates and better access to the company’s “Internet Essentials” program, for certain low-income families.

“The Internet is like water, and we would not allow our students to not have water at home or at school, but what we do find is that we lack access to this basic vital service in homes and at schools across this city,” said another man.

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Lance Haver, director of civic engagement for Philadelphia City Council, had a long list of proposed fixes for Comcast franchises in Philadelphia:

“It must offer a rate freeze, transparency in pricing, a fair and equitable way for consumers to resolve service and billing disputes, and the right to pay for channels they want without having to pay for those that they don’t want,” he said.

Earlier this month, Mayor Nutter said the city was seeking a range of improvements in the next 15-year franchise agreement, including wider broadband capacity, more access in underserved neighborhoods, and better service.

City Council also plans to hold a series of hearings.

Comcast says it looks forward to a “productive dialogue.”

 

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