Comcast reps endure marathon hearing as they continue to fight for Philly franchise renewal

Comcast executives continue to fight for a franchise renewal in their headquarters city, facing off with local lawmakers in a marathon, five-hour Philadelphia City Council meeting Thursday, according to reports from the event.

There appears to be little doubt that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will ultimately approve Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) bid to renew its 15-year franchise agreement with the city. Under basic terms of this renewal, the city would recoup 5 percent of revenue generated by Comcast in Philadelphia -- an amount that breaks down to about $17.5 million a year. 

Comcast has already agreed to pay the city $500,000 to establish Internet connectivity for disadvantaged citizens, and to hire between 150-200 Philadelphians at a new virtual call center. Comcast has also pledged to provide more Wi-Fi hotspots.

Some of those attending Thursday's hearing wanted more. For example, Hillary Linardopoulos, a staff rep for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, noted Comcast's "gleaming, tax-exempt" new skyscraper, the City Center, juxtaposing it with the city's far more decayed school system. A former teacher, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Linardopoulos wants Comcast to increase its funding for local schools to teach digital literacy.

"This franchise agreement presents ... an opportunity to help redefine ourselves as a society," she said.

Arguing his company's case, Jim Samaha, senior VP of Comcast's "Freedom Region," which includes Philly, noted that the MSO had spent more than $270 million to upgrade its network in the city. 

Comcast reps cited other statistics: the MSO employees 8,000 Philadelphians; it pays out $42 million to local schools through property taxes; its new business tower alone generates $21.5 million a year in property taxes.

However, Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez responded, "What we're talking about at this hearing is not evaluating the value that Comcast brings," she said. "But increasing that value and adding value, given Philadelphia's reality and challenges."

For more:
- read this Philadelphia Inquirer story
- read this Philadelphia Business Journal story
- read this story

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