Wireless competition worth lack of public access

Verizon will be competing with Comcast in the city but doesn’t need to make payments to public-access TV for seven years.

City Council has given Verizon FiOS the business incentive needed to move into the area, making Philadelphia fair game for two cable companies. 

On Feb. 6, City Council approved a 15-year agreement that will allow Verizon to wire FiOS, the telecommunications company’s fiber optic network that includes up to 295 channels, in Philadelphia.  However, for seven of those 15 years, Verizon does not have to make payments for public access.

I was initially wary about Verizon entering the fray. At first glance, the idea of not paying taxes for seven years seemed ridiculously unfair.

I’m certainly no business expert, but it eventually dawned on me that this agreement between Philadelphia and Verizon is necessary as an incentive for Verizon to build FiOS in our city and challenge Comcast.

“Start-up costs are tremendous,” said Carol Carver, a resident of the Philadelphia region, in an e-mail interview. “You have to encourage new business and give them some incentives to do business.”
Verizon’s arrival will force Comcast to deal with major competition for cable TV in Philadelphia, especially since Comcast has been slacking for quite some time.

“I switched from Comcast to Verizon the minute it was available in my neighborhood,” Carver said.
Carver said Verizon FiOS is a better service than Comcast because of the variety of channels, reception and lower costs offered by the company.

Carver is not the only resident in the Philadelphia region who is dissatisfied with Comcast’s services.
On ComplaintsBoard.com, a Web site made for consumers to air their grievances, Philadelphia resident Sal Longo sounded off about Comcast’s surcharge for paying bills over the phone. To pay a Comcast bill by phone, customers have to pay a $2 fee, and if they need to speak to a customer service representative, they are charged a $4 fee.

“I have been hounded by Verizon for a year to switch to them,” Longo said. “If they tell me I can pay by phone and not be charged for giving them money, I will switch.”

Longo complained that Comcast was taking advantage of people who are able to pay their bills in the current economic crisis in order to fund “overpaid owners of their sports franchises” and the new Comcast skyscraper in Center City.

I understand that Philadelphians are angry with the low quality and pricey nature of Comcast. I get disgruntled when my Comcast-provided cable freezes, especially when customer service takes an absurd amount of time to assist me with the problem.

“I like [Comcast’s] service and what they offer, but I think it’s way overpriced,” said Robyn Kusner, a Delaware County native and longtime Comcast customer. “If Verizon came into our area and offered a cheaper service, I’d love it.”

Philadelphians shouldn’t worry about the deal that has been struck between Verizon and City Council.
Kusner’s and Carver’s complaints represent the region’s dissatisfaction with Comcast. If Verizon is willing to wire Philadelphia, I say let it be. People are demanding better service from their cable companies, and in time, Verizon will pay its dues.

Unlike Comcast, Verizon did not have porn interfere with the broadcast of this year’s Super Bowl. The company is already one step ahead of Comcast in the battle for Philadelphia’s consumers.

Joshua Fernandez can be reached at josh.fernandez@temple.edu.

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