Protesters: Comcast should fund technology in Philly schools - Technical.ly Philly

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Sep. 11, 2015 5:20 pm

Protesters: Comcast should fund technology in Philly schools

As the city continues to negotiate with Comcast on its 15-year franchise agreement, activists offered a reminder Friday: many of Philly's students don't have the technology and tech training they need to succeed, and Comcast can help.
An activist outside City Hall, during a rally asking Comcast to fund technology in city schools.

An activist outside City Hall, during a rally asking Comcast to fund technology in city schools.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Full disclosure: Comcast was the title sponsor of Philly Tech Week 2015, which was organized by Technical.ly.

Not every student in Philadelphia attends a school that can afford Chromebooks or new computers or that offers a computer science class.

As the school year began, a group of roughly 50 activists gathered outside City Hall to talk about one possible way to change that: Comcast.

“Once again, as schools open, our students are getting short-changed,” said Ron Whitehorne, a former Philly teacher and coordinator for the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools.

Comcast and the city are in the throes of a historic contract renegotiation, one that only happens every 15 years. Thus the leverage point. Friday afternoon, on the northeast corner of City Hall, activists from groups like the Media Mobilizing Project, Action United and the Philadelphia Student Union reminded the city of one place where Comcast could make a difference — Philly’s public schools.

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Activists brought old computers out to symbolize what Philly students have to work with. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

“We’re not here just to shame Comcast,” City Council candidate Helen Gym said to the crowd. “We’re here to tell them that they have an important moment right now to make Philadelphia the centerpiece of internet access and economic and educational justice for the city and for the United States.”

In a letter sent late last month, City Council asked similar questions of Comcast.

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“Among the goals shared by many in City Council is to position Philadelphia public school students as among the most digitally-literate and job-ready students in the country,” the letter read. “Can you speak to ways Comcast can support this goal, including through new investments in hardware, software, service connections, staffing, and/or apprenticeship programs?”

Comcast has paid more than $100 million to the School District in the form of taxes over the last seven years, a Comcast spokeswoman said.

The rally was a way, as Gym put it, to “[keep] the heat on” as the negotiations go on behind closed doors. While the city engaged the public with hearings early on, the sole opportunity for public comment on the contract will come during City Council’s hearings.

The franchise negotiations are slated to head to City Council for approval in October, though the Media Mobilizing Project’s Hannah Sassaman has floated the possibility of the negotiation dragging past the Nutter administration and into the tenure of the next mayor.

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