Comcast didn’t influence damning municipal broadband study, U of Penn researchers say

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Comcast has deep ties to the U of Penn.

Two University of Pennsylvania Law School researchers have come out in defense of a report questioning the financial viability of municipal broadband networks, claiming the study was unbiased and without influence by local cable powerhouse, Comcast. 

Late last month, U of Penn law professor Christopher Yoo and student Timothy Pfenninger published a report indicating that of the nine municipal broadband projects that are making any money, the cash flow is so small that it would take more than a century to recover project costs.

In fact, only two of the 20 projects studied generated enough money to cover project cost over a 61-to-65-year period. 

“Some critics claim the study was supported by corporate interests. It was not,” reads a statement released by the researchers.

RELATED: More than half of municipal broadband projects are unprofitable, University of Pennsylvania study says

Comcast has deep ties to the U of Penn, with many of the company’s top managers having graduated with various degrees from the school. Comcast’s top regulatory executive, David L. Cohen, received his J.D. from U of Penn Law in 1977 and currently serves as chairman of the trustees for the school’s executive committee. Cohen also serves a member of the trustee board and executive committee of Penn Medicine. 

Beyond defending their credibility, the study backers also spoke to the veracity of their research.

“In different ways, critics have questioned the relatively small sample size (20 networks in the original study) or the limited financial data points covered or the lack of longer-term performance information or other data limitations,” the researchers said. 

“These limitations are real,” they added. “We acknowledge and address them in the paper."

"At the same time, our study is based on the best data available. We base our analysis on audited financial statements and bond materials submitted to the SEC—the falsification of which would be a crime. Our study includes all projects that report their data in a usable way. We employ basic and widely understood analytical methods taught in every introductory business program.”