As Comcast franchise renewal nears, Philadelphia solicits resident opinions

Philadelphians are being given the opportunity to voice their opinions on the biggest cable TV company serving the city as a 15-year franchise agreement between the City of Philadelphia and Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) comes up for renewal.

Residents are being asked to complete surveys that are available online and, for those without home access to computers, in library branches and city-run public computing centers. Philadelphia also plans to hold up to three hearings in different neighborhoods, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The city has hired Paoli, Pa.-based CBG Communications to survey city residents and evaluate franchise agreements in other cities. CBG is not new to the game, having already conducted an 800-person phone survey last fall that polled 400 Comcast subscribers and 400 non-subs.

The survey will concern itself with several facets of cable TV coverage in Philadelphia, including whether local programming should be available in HD or through on-demand, and how much city residents are willing to pay in their cable bill to support local programming.

Hanna Sassaman, policy director at nonprofit community organization Media Mobilizing Project told the Inquirer that the franchise agreement is a "unique opportunity for everyone in Philadelphia to ask for and secure the communication access they need to thrive in this city."

Stating the obvious, Sassaman also said that Comcast, arguably the biggest named corporation headquartered in Philadelphia--which already announced plans to build a downtown innovation and technology center that will tower over the district--has "outsize political influence" in the city and the franchise renegotiation "needs to be an open process."

Philadelphia is also served by Verizon (NYSE: VZ) FiOS TV and Internet through a franchise agreement signed in 2009.

For more:
- The Philadelphia Inquirer carried this story

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