How investment is shaping Philadelphia’s broadband, energy industries

How investment is shaping Philadelphia’s broadband, energy industries

2023-09-20T08:21:50-04:00September 20th, 2023|Economy, Face Off, Infrastructure, Philadelphia, Technology & Innovation|

Writer: Esteban Pages 

2 min read September 2023 — The City of Philadelphia is intent on leveraging available funding to revamp its available infrastructure and prepare for sustainable growth. By the city’s estimates, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is expected to add nearly $1 billion in infrastructure funding between 2022 and 2027 to service roads, bridges, mass transit, water infrastructure, electric vehicle charging stations and broadband needs. 

The historic $1.2 trillion made available for long-term infrastructure investments across the U.S. is likely to change Philadelphia’s economy in the medium to long term. In recent interviews with Invest:, Comcast Regional Senior Vice President Dan Bonelli and NRG Home East Vice President & General Manager Bucky Gardner shared their companies’ contributions to regional infrastructure and how innovation and sustainability are intricately linked and will act as the bedrock for Greater Philadelphia’s responsible growth.

What infrastructure innovations can Greater Philadelphia expect to see more of going forward?

Dan Bonelli, Regional Senior Vice President, Comcast: The Xfinity 10G network is our next-generation broadband network that continues to get smarter, faster and more reliable. Our 10G Network delivers multi-gig speeds, the nation’s largest network of Wi-Fi hotspots and our gig-Wi-Fi gateway that can seamlessly connect hundreds of devices. Reliability is crucial as people consume more streaming, virtual reality, and engage in video conferencing. Last year, a billion devices connected to our network, which is 12 times more than in 2018. This trend shows no signs of slowing down, with platforms like YouTube carrying the NFL Sunday Ticket and Apple offering MLB baseball online only. Virtual reality is also gaining popularity, demanding robust network capabilities. To meet these demands, we have invested over $20 billion in our network between 2018 and 2022, constantly improving reliability, speed, and security. Our latest enhancements, reaching 50 million people, provide multi-gig speeds, faster uploads, improved reliability, and energy efficiency. Currently, we have expanded to 10 million customers across more than 40 markets, including the Greater Philadelphia area.

Bucky Gardner, Vice President & General Manager, NRG Home East: We want to take the opportunity to integrate smart homes with the services that Vivint offers. They have various residential monitoring and security products that could optimize electricity and natural gas consumption. When you combine those together through a device and/or app, it gives consumers control over their consumption. NRG is the first energy company to stitch those two things together. It is just another service that the homeowner can lean on to optimize convenience with their spending and their usage. Managing energy spend is not just about the price but about consumption and how customers can take control of how much they use.  

We launched our EV Charger product late last year and it was featured at the Philly Auto Show in January. We had a lot of interest in it. Chargers can be expensive but when you couple it with the electricity service it can help the consumer pay for it over time. In that respect, our plan helps the consumer charge their car at their home overnight when electricity is typically less expensive. So it can be financially beneficial, while also being more sustainable and improves EV adoption. We want to help people get that equipment so they can spend less money and have more convenience charging their EV. We are always trying to figure out what the consumer wants and what products will deliver that. 

What is your outlook for Philadelphia over the next five years?

Bonelli: As we look ahead to our top priorities in the future, it is evident that the demand for our services is growing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down. We remain committed to understanding and meeting our customer needs and expectations by providing the required speeds and network capabilities. Moreover, we will introduce new products and services that align with their evolving needs. For instance, we have introduced offerings such as NOW TV and Comcast Business Mobile, so that we’re catering to both residential and commercial customers. Additionally, we will continue expanding our network strategically, partnering with towns and local municipalities to ensure connectivity for underserved areas and enable customers to benefit from internet essentials and ACP.

Gardner: We are optimistic about our products and the choice of services we offer. From a cost perspective, we are seeing some relief in commodity costs. That will give us some advantages that we can potentially pass onto our customers. The potential for wholesale commodity volatility will always be there but recently it has decreased. We also offer fixed-price products, which can help mitigate volatility. Like I mentioned earlier, the Vivint acquisition gives us the ability to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. It is a very new approach to the electricity and natural gas market, which are traditionally industries slow to change. We are also focused on giving consumers control over their energy usage and costs. Do you know where your meter is in your house? It is by design that many people don’t, so they don’t have to think about it and the utility company handles it. You just pay your bill because you have no choice. Our intent is to change this dynamic by giving the consumer control through technology, products, and services. 

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