Seattle officials, who had balked when they saw the contract terms Philadelphia received, say they won additional community benefits from Comcast in weekend negotiations.
Seattle officials over the weekend won better community benefits by renegotiating a new cable-television franchise agreement with Comcast, they said Monday.
Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Bruce Harrell attributed the improvements to their letter last Friday demanding a deal like Comcast had agreed to give Philadelphia.
Murray and Harrell warned the cable company they would postpone a City Council vote on the agreement scheduled for Monday unless further concessions were made.
Though Comcast complied and Harrell introduced the renegotiated agreement Monday, the council nonetheless decided to delay its vote after several members expressed concerns about the city’s ability to enforce benefits associated with the deal.
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Harrell provided the council with a letter from Comcast outlining the additional benefits. But Council President Tim Burgess and Councilmembers Nick Licata and Lorena González said they wanted the benefits detailed in a more formal, legally binding form.
Franchise agreements with cable companies set the terms and conditions under which the city allows the companies to install equipment and provide services along public rights of way.
Seattle currently has three cable-television franchise agreements, with Comcast, CenturyLink and Wave. The Comcast agreement expires on Jan. 20.
Federal law limits how much cities can regulate Internet service, so officials seek Internet-related benefits from cable companies separately while negotiating cable-television franchise agreements.
Over the weekend, Comcast increased its Seattle commitments by agreeing to offer discounted Internet service to low-income seniors, provide the city with a $500,000 digital-equity grant rather than a $50,000 grant, and partner with the city to help housing-insecure youth obtain devices like laptop computers for accessing the Internet, officials said.
The city’s chief technology officer, Michael Mattmiller, described the renegotiated deal as “a lot closer” to what Philadelphia, where Comcast is based, is getting.
Amy Hirotaka, chairwoman of Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board, also praised the new deal.
But Hirotaka said Comcast must better advertise its discounted Internet service, and she noted that the prospect of municipal broadband remains attractive to many Internet users in Seattle because it would offer an alternative to companies like Comcast.
Sabrina Roach of Upgrade Seattle said she’s glad Philadelphia won a deal that’s given negotiators here more leverage.