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Editorial: Public Access

Verizon should do more

As City Council members delve further into Verizon's welcome proposal to expand its pay-TV service to Philadelphia, they can improve the deal for viewers as well as the city's civic life by insisting that Verizon provide more support for citizen-run channels.

With a hearing on the 15-year cable franchise negotiated by Mayor Nutter set to resume today, it's likely Council will continue to press Verizon for assurances the company will deliver on its pledge to provide citywide service. That's a valid concern, since Verizon drove a hard bargain and landed a deal without daily fines for failing to wire everywhere. (The firm would risk performance bonds required as a safeguard.)

There's little question, however, that Verizon could provide more financial backing for the launch of public-access channels that will give amateur broadcasters an outlet.

While cable leader Comcast is soon due to pay its first $500,000 annual operating subsidy for up to five citizen-run channels, Verizon won't have to make its first contribution for five years. Nor would Verizon's total $4 million for public access match Comcast's $7.5 million.

The city's Public Access Corp., formed to oversee the amateur channels, makes a compelling case that Verizon should pay more. With its meager budget compared with other big-city public-access programs, Philadelphia's fledgling effort can use all the help possible in improving its financial picture.