3 min read July 2022 — In an interview with Invest; Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Freedom Region, which serves Greater Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware, Dennis Mathew talked about what Comcast has been doing to drive connectivity in the Philadelphia region, discussing investments Comcast is making and plans for the future. Mathew also talked about the importance of digital literacy and what his outlook is for the future of the industry, as well as what makes the area itself attractive to talent and business, especially for the tech industry.
What have been some recent achievements or milestones over the last 12 months?
The last 12 months have been quite an evolution. Our focus has been on how we can work with the city to accomplish goals and objectives particularly in the area of digital equity and bridging the digital divide. When the pandemic started we opened up our network of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, made Internet Essentials – our low cost Internet for low-income familes – free for new customers for the first two months. We also launched WiFi-enabled Lift Zones across the country to ensure that students and adults could get online to participate in distance learning or remote work, do homework or look for and apply for jobs. We now have more than 1,000 Lift Zones across the country, and more than 75 in the city of Philadelphia.
More recently, we’re continuing to drive Internet Essentials and now with the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), folks can have high-speed internet for free! Internet Essentials has existed for 10 years and we’ve connected millions of customers, but there’s still more work to do. We’ve got to drive awareness and get on the ground working with our community partners, working with trusted voices to finally bridge that digital divide and meet the rising demands that have been accelerated by the pandemic.
We also brought the Comcast RISE Investment Fund back to the city with another million dollars in grants. RISE is our commitment to supporting black-, minority- and women-owned businesses. They need help in multiple ways and we are providing that help through technology or marketing services and once again, the investment fund. This is the second time in two years that we’re providing one hundred companies with $10,000 grants to help them recover from the impact of the pandemic.
What makes the Philadelphia region unique compared to others Comcast is in?
This is my hometown but those that have spent time here know about the talent we attract in the areas of tech, education and healthcare. We just have so much to offer. Our tech culture in particular is one that offers a fertile environment for startups and innovators to be able to come, plug in and get connected.
Being centrally located to other cities like New York, D.C. or Boston is always good, and we also have an amazing restaurant scene that allows people to come to the city to live, work and play. The culture is rich in the city with incredibly diverse neighborhoods and communities with parks, rec centers, playgrounds and hundreds of miles of trails. I think our region is a bit different, and for Comcast in particular this is our hometown and it’s been our hometown for over 50 years. We have the most employees here compared to any other location between our downtown office and our regional office.
How are the investments your company is making going to benefit customers and communities in the area?
Comcast is constantly innovating and expanding our offerings and that’s a great benefit for our customers. Our network reaches almost every single residence and business in the city, delivering up to one gig of network capacity to meet the needs of residents and small businesses. We’re proactively building our fiber network out to support enterprise businesses of all sizes. Since 2017, we’ve invested more than $26 million within the city alone, which benefited tens of thousands of businesses by making our network more accesible and affordable. Those investments recently reached the Food District, and now we can reach those businesses as well that previously didn’t have a broadband option. As the city continues to revitalize, we are being proactive and constantly evaluating opportunities to expand the fiber network.
And as we expand the network, the cutting-edge services that we offer on top become available to these businesses as well. Cybersecurity is a major concern, so we offer state-of-the-art services like Security Edge, or Active Core, which is an enterprise platform that allows companies to centrally manage their IT network at thousands of locations. And so it’s an investment in the network, and it’s an investment on advanced applications and technologies that sit on top of the networks, so that these companies have access to the latest and the greatest.
Are there any significant advancements you are excited about?
I’m really excited about our road to 10G. This has been our multi-year mission to make the network not just stronger but smarter and continue to stay ahead of our customers’ needs. We know that the speeds we offer today are more than enough, but we also know that this is constantly evolving. And so we want to be able to push the limits on faster speeds, more capacity and reliability throughout our ubiquitous coax network. We recently achieved multi-gig internet speeds, allowing us to deliver multi-gigabyte upload and download speeds over our existing network. We’re excited about continuing to make these types of investments, planning for a tomorrow that is constantly evolving.
How have demands for your services changed over the past 12 months?
There was unprecedented usage and demand for connectivity during the pandemic. We suddenly woke up and life was essentially at home with people working and taking classes online. We really leaned in as we saw usage at unprecedented levels, driving capacity into the network, and then also helping our customers understand how to have strong WiFi in the home so that it could meet all their needs as we all went from sporadic usage to, all of a sudden, everybody on all of their devices at the same time. I think that video usage and the evolution of how we use the internet is only going to continue to evolve as we go forward. We are excited to make sure we are building out our network to stay ahead and meet those needs.
Digital literacy is also an area that we’re passionate about. As we are on the ground working with our partners and making sure that folks have access, we are also making sure they know how to use it. Teaching digital literacy is a part of our digital equity strategy and one that we’re passionate about, especially as we drive Internet Essentials and ACP.
What are the top priorities for the near-term at Comcast?
One of the big areas of focus is our Xfinity Mobile solution. We know the product and the value proposition of our internet, and when you combine it with Xfinity Mobile, it’s really an amazing value proposition. Nationally, we have more than 4.2 million customers that have signed up and we’re highly ranked in terms of customer satisfaction. But, there’s more work to do in terms of awareness in driving connections and really bringing those experiences together.
Continuing to strategically invest in our network and adding capacity is a huge focus for us, making sure we evolve as needs from the community arise. We’re excited to continue to partner with this incredible community.
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