The year is five days old and already there are three big updates from Comcast.
Comcast acquires Wilco
Let’s start off with the one hot off the presses: Comcast announced Friday morning it has acquired the cable assets of Wilco Electronics Systems, the 40-year-old provider of comms services to educational, government and low-income communities in the Philly area.
Wilco, founded in 1977 by Will Daniel, bills itself as the largest African-American-owned cable provider in the Philadelphia area, serving 9,000 Philadelphia Housing Authority homes. No financial terms from the deal were made available, but Wilco Executive Vice President Brigitte Daniel and Chief Financial Officer Perry Daniel will serve as consultants to Comcast through a transitional period.
“We are happy to reach an agreement with Comcast that will now offer PHA residents the ability to be able to reap the benefits of its Internet Essentials program as well as many other advanced technologies,” Will Daniel said in a statement. “The opportunity for PHA communities to obtain these services through Comcast, which was founded by my personal friend Ralph Roberts, is an important step in bridging the digital divide here in Philadelphia.”
While Comcast already services a number of PHA residents in scattered sites, Comcast Regional Senior Vice President James Samaha said the acquisition of Wilco’s cable assets will let Comcast make all Xfinity products and services, including its low-cost Internet Essentials program, available throughout the area.
“This is about about bridging the digital gap and disparities in access,” Brigitte Daniel told Technical.ly. “Will built this business on a banner of equal opportunities, which means PHA residents have a right to have access to everything everybody has. It feels like the end of an era but, on the flip side, we have a responsibility to the people that we serve. If this is an opportunity to empower them, we can’t pass that up.”
Daniel’s company will continue to operate under current leadership and provide other telecom services like residential and commercial security and surveillance solutions.
“For us security and surveillance solutions have always been under the radar,” Brigitte said. “Now we’ll be able to grow that full steam ahead. The legacy of being an African-American provider in the cable space is one we’re proud of, and we hope to continue that legacy of being minority-owned in other spaces.”
Comcast fires hundreds
According to an Inquirer report published Thursday, Comcast had a round of layoffs before the holidays.
Per the testimony of one Comcast employee in Florida and documents reviewed by Philadelphia Media Network, close to 500 salespeople were laid off in Chicago, Florida and other markets in Comcast’s Central region.
A Comcast spokesperson confirmed the layoffs as part of a shift in its sales model, and revealed those let go were offered severance packages including “a $1,000 supplemental severance payment” that mirrored a bonus offered to all Comcast employees “based on the passage of tax reform and the FCC’s action on broadband.”
The choice quote from the article has to be the cold dismissal employees reportedly received:
Rumors of an employee cutback among the salespeople at Comcast had been percolating for weeks. But the disclosure of the terminations came as a shock when the employees were called into a company meeting in the Southeastern U.S. in mid-December. They were told that a new Comcast direct sales system requires fewer bodies “and as of today everyone in this room does not have a job anymore,” the terminated employee said.
LIFT Labs partners with UNION
Evan Burfield’s UNION, the spinout startup from the 1776–Benjamin’s Desk deal, locked in its biggest corporate client in Comcast NBCUniversal: the company’s LIFT Labs, a multi-city startup accelerator done in partnership with Techstars.
Terms of the deal weren’t immediately made available, but Burfield told Technical.ly this was the biggest corporate name coming onto the platform thus far. The deal, the CEO and founder said, is under a standard license structure for the LIFT Labs community to have access to the platform and content.
Danielle Cohn, Executive Director of Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs, said the partnership with UNION supports LIFT Labs in its mission to “connect startups with the resources they need to advance their businesses and elevate to the next level.”
Backed by a staff of 20, D.C.-based UNION will let startups in the accelerator have access to some 800 learning resources and classes and 1,700 mentors.-30-