The last time you phoned Comcast - yes, I know, this will tickle at least a few readers - did you reach someone within 30 seconds? What's your total monthly Comcast tab? If you've quit Comcast, was it because of cost, service problems, or some other reason?
Nearly two years ago, Philadelphia officials said they were posing those and similar questions to city residents - including to a random sample of 800 Comcast customers and nonsubscribers. They had good reason: All four of the city's Comcast cable franchises expire later this year. Facing a once-in-15-years opportunity, city officials said they were "seeking community feedback" as they prepared to negotiate renewals with Philly's 1st Corporate Citizen.
So where are the results - or the long-promised "needs assessment" they're part of? Seems they've been bottled up in the office of Mayor Nutter, though officials can't really explain the delay.
"All I can say is that it's still in process. We hope to get it out shortly, though I can't put a specific date on it," Mark McDonald, the mayor's spokesman, told me Wednesday.
Are they getting pressure from Comcast to change the report, after sharing a draft with the company? McDonald said the city wanted to know if Comcast objected - "If you have a beef, let's hear it" - but promised that the city's findings would not be edited or redacted at Comcast's request.
"The report is the report," he said. "What they get is the courtesy of knowing what they need to be prepared to answer."
Comcast officials declined to comment. But company critics and at least one Council member are among those urging the report's release.
"We cannot be on hold any longer," quipped Councilman Bobby Henon, a Northeast Philadelphia Democrat. "We're cutting short the time to publicly talk about the needs" before the franchises expire later this year.
Henon said technological advances have made cable essential in ways unclear when the franchises were last negotiated.
"Fifteen years ago, we had dial-up Internet, and now we're doing voice-over-Internet calling," he said. With broadband now essential to education, commerce, and government, city officials have a duty to bargain effectively with Comcast - and need to know beforehand what residents need.
Also pressing is West Philadelphia's Media Mobilizing Project, which filed a Right to Know law request Wednesday seeking the survey and other documents related to the franchise renewals.
The group has urged the city to make a broad set of demands in the franchise process, even if it formally covers only cable TV.
"City Council is well within its rights to study and challenge what goes into that franchise, whether it has to do with cable or other issues," said the group's policy director, Hannah Sassaman. She said renewals and side letters in other cities have included higher franchise fees, free access for schools and other institutions, and promises to not block competition.
What else should the city seek? As Sassaman argues, a city with as much poverty as ours should push for widespread access to low-cost broadband, without the onerous limits of Comcast's Internet Essentials - offered, for example, only to families with schoolchildren.
And the city should insist that Comcast make its SportsNet channel - site of most Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers games - more widely and affordably available - perhaps by including it on entry-level Basic Cable and by offering it à la carte to satellite subscribers and others. Sony's new PlayStation Vue streaming service offers SportsNet as a $10-a-month add-on, which may be a sign Comcast can be pushed to be more flexible.
It's not clear why Comcast might fear the city's survey. (To see the subscriber survey, go to http://bit.ly/1Cq8QLz; for the non-subscriber survey, http://bit.ly/1Cq8Smx.) City officials have said the customer problems reported in it should not surprise anybody.
Would a little more bad publicity hurt? Maybe so, maybe not.
Either way, it's time for both the mayor's office and Comcast to suck it up and deal.