The Seattle City Council was poised to renew a 10-year franchise deal with Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) today but after getting wind of what the cable giant was offering Philadelphia, city officials are delaying their vote and pressing the company for a better deal.
In a letter to Comcast on Friday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Bruce Harrell said that the City Council won't approve the new cable franchise deal for Comcast in Seattle unless the city receives benefits similar to what Comcast offered Philadelphia.
Comcast's franchise deal with Philadelphia was announced Dec. 3 after eight months of negotiations with the city. As part of the deal Comcast said it will expand its subsidized broadband program, Internet Essentials, to seniors and will provide up to $2.7 million over the next five years to allow other low-income Philadelphians to enroll in the subsidy program as well. In addition, the company pledged to give $20 million over the next 15 years to support local public, government and educational programming channels, which is $2 million more than what Comcast originally offered.
The cable MSO also said it will install a high-speed network in 200 city locations and will pay its employees at least the city's "living wage" level of $12 an hour.
Seattle is now asking for similar items. "We were disappointed to learn of the franchise agreed to between Comcast and the city of Philadelphia," reads the letter from Murray and Harrell to Comcast, as cited by the Seattle Times. "Having seen the commitment toward equity and affordability in Philadelphia, we believe the people of Seattle deserve the same level of commitment."
Comcast's franchise agreement with Seattle is set to expire Jan. 20 and Murray and Harrell said that the city will hold off granting Comcast a new franchise "until Seattle's agreement is significantly improved." Comcast has said it is open to discussing the terms of the deal.
Comcast's new deal with Seattle already requires the company to offer free cable service to city buildings and schools as well as donate $50,000 per year for the Seattle Channel. In addition, the deal calls for Comcast to offer discounted cable service for low-income subscribers and free Internet service to qualifying nonprofits.
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