SOTN2022 15 Fireside Chat featuring Broderick Johnson, with Michael A. Nutter
10:54AM Mar 3, 2022
So good afternoon, everyone. I'm Rick simmerman of NCTA, the Internet and television Association and a longtime board member of the Internet Education Foundation. It's my pleasure today to introduce one of Philadelphia's finest to lead the next session. I'll just quickly offer my own Philadelphia bona fide ease. My Philly connection began in the mid 50s When my mom was a physics PhD student at Penn. My older brother was born in Philly, my sisters and I right across the river in Camden, New Jersey, and I moved a long, long time ago, but my lovely wife is from Northeast Philly, and she shares a link with our facilitator today they both have degrees from St. Joseph's University. My wife has a master's degree in education, and our speaker has an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service. So after serving on the city council for 15 years, Michael Nutter was elected mayor of the city of Philadelphia in 2008, serving for eight years and along the way, serving as president of the universe of the US Conference of Mayors. His lasting impact includes improving both the quality of life and the business climate of the city. Among his many honors, he was named public official of the Year by governing magazine in 2014. And he now serves as the David N Dinkins, Professor of professional practice in urban and Public Affairs at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. So it's my my honor to introduce the former college Dj Mix Master Mike, also known as former Mayor Michael Nutter. Good
Yep. How's everyone? Alright. Crowd is Dragon. Israeli dragon. Israeli dragon. We will talk about
how's everybody? Good.
Okay. Slowly coming back to life. Okay. A long day.
Long Weekend. Nothing wrong with a long weekend. I mean, work. Oh, yeah. But just because you have a job. Used to have one? Yeah, well, you're about to have a lot more.
My wife will be so happy.
So our whole conversation is going to be like this. I don't know what y'all were expecting us to talk about. But we already plotted this out and figured out my mind is more interesting than see what's on this track. All the details.
Do they have any idea who we are? I mean, where we actually introduced or I think you were I almost half assed it was he introduced? Experiment us introduce it wasn't what you're supposed to introduce me. I'm introducing you. Yeah. Good afternoon. How's everyone? Excellent. All right. Spraying? Yeah. So I want to introduce you to a very, very good friend of mine, former secretary of the cabinet, in President Obama's administration, what you do in the Clinton administration, Legislative Affairs, and we've already got winsky. He was in legislative affairs during a very challenging time in the government, ladies and gentlemen, Broderick Johnson.
All right. Thank you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. My friend. It's good to see you, man. You too.
Alright, now that we got that out of the way. This is we're talking. This is Internet.
I think so every state of the net? Yes. We're talking about the Internet. Yeah. And we're talking about our views of the Internet. And yeah, and I like the Internet. It's good. It's very important. Very important. has a lot to do with, with Why join Comcast was so we could make the Internet. ubiquitous. Certainly, there's evil behind.
Is that what you said in your interview?
Yeah, I said ubiquitous. Yeah. And they hired. Yeah. And they hired me down. Didn't you call and put in a good word.
But yeah, yep. Yeah. They told me I think though, they said they appreciated my call. They've actually already made the decision. And I said, Well, just let him know that I
you know, waiting. Okay, on that. Alright, so I'm taking all the credit. Yeah. And you owe me a drink afterwards. All right. We can do that too. All right. We should probably get serious. Yeah. All right. You can tell we're friends. Very, very good friends. have done a lot A lot of great work together over the years to in our roles in government, and share deep passion for the subject that we're going to talk about. And, you know, I think I'll let you ask me a question. And then
yeah, I'll try to do so in the ubiquity of the Internet. And we've been in the fights, debates, arguments, but I think it all crystallize in 20 into 21. The significance of the Internet, no question, I'd love to hear your perspective. Pre Comcast, and now Comcast.
Sure. And, you know, I'm sure you and I both share this with everyone in the room. The events that are happening in Ukraine, and such courage shown by the Ukrainians, in the face of an on believable and unnecessary onslaught, war raged by Russia, but, you know, we get to watch through our digital devices. A lot of what's happening that we would not have seen before. And so in that sense, we are fortunate to know what's happening and for the rest of the world to know what's happening. So I just want to start with, with that concern of that observation. And, you know, for me, just in terms of how I came to this in the first place, you know, I grew up in in in Baltimore, very much like your hometown, Philadelphia. And, you know, I was very fortunate to be raised by working class parents who really had been denied so many opportunities themselves, but wanted to make sure that their children weren't denied opportunities, and the tools of opportunities. And when I think about those tools, it was like encyclopedias, for example, all over the place, right. And they, they weren't there just by the way for access, right, which we get into it was like, and you will open those, yeah, we'll learn it will be used. And you'll be you'll be quizzed about that. And we also had jet magazine to learn from and Ebony and and look, and those were the tools that we had. And so we know now, right that the tools for knowledge are digitally based. And we know that throughout the pandemic, those tools have played such an integral role in the capacity and ability of people to be able to do homework, we've got this tremendous problem with the homework gap, which existed before the pandemic and has been made even worse, but people were actually able to use the Internet to continue their education. We know with regard to telehealth, how many people were able to keep in touch with their doctors in their health care providers as a result. And we know also then, of course, about workforce training and opportunities as well. So those are the tools. Now imagine if 1020 30 years ago, we hadn't had this digital capacity to be able to keep up with information and stay competitive.
Well, on one of the other points. And again, we talk about access, who has who doesn't, you know, when testing finally became available, right, much of it, you have to sign up online to get a test. And vaccines then became available to pretty much sign up online until the you know, in Philly, we had a number of centers open up and black doctors COVID consortium. But in a lot of ways, again, if you do not have access, it is almost impossible for you to live up.
No, no question, no question. And even with all of the access that's available to people, we know that perhaps the the greatest not perhaps from our perspective, the greatest challenges now are about adoption, and not adoption, having to do with affordability necessarily for so many millions of people. But having to do with just awareness and an appreciation of the difference that it can make in people's lives. And that's what we really need to be focused on Comcast, we are very focused on these adoption related issues. But we can't do it ourselves. We have made tremendous investments private sector has made tremendous investments over these decades as we've really tried to address the digital divide and bring access, affordable access. But we still know that there are 10s of millions of our friends and neighbors, people we care about who aren't aware or don't have the trust or knowledge Your skills to be able to use the Internet. And that's what I'm so, so passionate about, right? Because we can't leave people behind. And we have a historic opportunity to not do
that. You know, I was very, very fortunate when I was mayor of Philadelphia. Comcast leadership in the hometown, but across the country, the beginning of Internet Essentials, focused on low income populations, people who do not have a tablet or device in the home. If they did, they didn't have high quality, decent quality Internet service. And I think over time, we've certainly helped a ton of K to 12 young people excel. That I mean, it might sound a little wild to some people in this room. That still today, a whole bunch of kids do not have access, whether in the city or across the country, to high quality Internet or even a device to use it on. We have schools in our city, that those days, maybe still today, corporations would you know, maybe their last generation of computers, they would donate still in good shape. Still decent. I mean, I don't really know that much about computers. I'm glad mine turns on everything. But they learn only
we can help you. We have a you have Serbia, we have some illiterate. No, we have literacy training programs that can help you with that. So what we'll talk about that though, on Konasana, we're having a drink. Yeah. Okay, you should be signed up already. But well, well, we'll check that out. Access.
But companies in the goodness of their heart would donate computers. And in many instances, the young people were existing in a building that was in a two prong world and the rest of the world was in a three prong reality, they literally could not plug the computers in, because the building was 60 7080 years old. Now think about how you get Internet in that building, as well, where where you run a load where you're running those lines. And so there's a whole host of issues and challenges. This is a public private challenge for the United States of America. And I've said on many, many instances that if we looked at, and it's even more painful, of course, given the current events, but if we looked at education, as a part of the national defense of the United States of America, how much stronger country would be now that we've got, you know, tremendous might and power and I respect all of our people in uniform. But the real winning in this world is about knowledge. It's about information, it's about the transfer of that information, the ability to rapidly communicate, you cannot take the GED test on paper anymore. You can only take it on a computer.
Right? That's right. Right. Yeah. And so that's where the awareness is important. And you mentioned that the private sector and and the investments that the private sector is made, and now we have tremendous opportunity, working with government through the Affordable, affordable conductivity program, the ACP to make Internet access free. Again, for millions of people, we've had our low cost Internet Essentials program, 995 a month has stayed constant for 10 years, while we have been investing, in the case of Comcast cast $30 billion in our networks, there have been $2 trillion in investments by by the industry writ large, 70 to $80 billion a year annually. So investments have been made in networks, we now have tremendous government subsidies, hopefully that will be permanent, that will allow people to be online. But again, it's the awareness, right? It's distrust for government that keeps people from taking and it's also sort of a barrier for people to understand what difference it could make in their own lives. This is where, you know, we saw this with, with the Affordable Care Act, where it was important to get people called navigators into these communities, you know, folks that are trusted by people in the neighborhoods to say, No, this isn't a joke. This is real, this is an opportunity for you, and it can change your life. And so that is to me, perhaps. And for Comcast, we're putting so much resources into figuring all that out community by community by community.
I don't know whether that's your thing beeping or somebody snatched two microphones away from us, but even as a team Total city guy. I mean, one of the areas, I still have a great deal of concern about because as much as I was mayor of Philadelphia, I mean, you're kind of the mayor for the region, at least in Philly the way it's always laid out. And we've got, you know, significant suburban X urban and rural communities nearby. And, I mean, the lack of high quality, affordable service, in many of our rural areas, is a challenge. And there's a political opportunity to unite. Not to get into politics, but to unite a variety of constituencies across a bunch of different aisles. If we could actually figure out how to get more service into rural communities. It is important for us in Philadelphia, that the farmers in Lancaster have access to the Internet for their crops. And there are goods and services that then come to the city of Philadelphia, no disrespect to Whole Foods, I think not yet Whole Foods does not grow food.
Yet not yet.
Made with farmers, the you know, the mushroom capital of the United States of America is in Kennett Square, in Pennsylvania, the blueberry capital of America's in New Jersey, right, and a ton of other things, all of that product has to get to market. And they need information about the weather about the soil about a ton of different things. I mean, you know, the amount of technology involved in the agricultural business. I mean, this is not just you know, somebody with a plow and a mule. And, you know, we're just gonna kind of wait and see what happens,
right? So look, we're all in this together, right. And, and that gets said so often when it's not true, but it is very true in this instance, and fortunately, again, because of bipartisan support in Congress, the Senate in particular, you know, we've seen an incredible infrastructure investment being made, and a lot of the broadband investment will help rural communities, right. So this isn't about, you know, urban versus rural or African Americans and Latinos, versus the situation with white folks. However, we have to be aware of those disparities. And I know folks who really focus on the data, we did this with My Brother's Keeper, for example, focusing on data that could tell us where the disparities are, so we can figure out how to address those disparities. Again, so we can all be in this together. Yeah. You know, there's a there was a young woman who, by the way, and this just goes to how the Internet is so important for opportunities and through the pandemic. It's made such a difference in individual lives. We all know, stories, we've seen stories we know, members of our family, we were able to keep in touch with as a result of the fact they had Internet at home. There was a young woman from Philadelphia, who was given the opportunity to introduce the Vice President, the United States. Last week, when the administration it was last week or the week before, but when the administration celebrated fact that 10 million people have signed up to the Internet, as a result of the E BB and ACP program, this young woman, she's a high school senior. And before the pandemic, she said her family didn't think they needed the Internet, right? They learned very quickly that they needed the Internet. So they were able to sign up with our Internet Essentials program. She was able to keep up in school, to excel in school to apply for college online, she got accepted into her first choice. She will be the first in her family to go to college. We all many of us know that experience. It's still the case for many families. And she wants to be a lawyer. Can you imagine that? She wants to be a lawyer. Really? Yeah. Should I talk to her? I can't you should talk to her to talk. Yeah, she must be an immigration lawyer. But but just a fantastic and again from from your hometown. It was because of the Internet, though. She was able to keep up. And her family is able to stay connected to each other as well. And they're scattered all over the country. And, and I'd say all over the world
now. It's it's just, it's amazing. I think it's it's the one thing. I mean, it literally has kept us together. You know, no question our families, our neighbors in our communities. And I would suggest to some extent, as a country, I mean, we're gonna have our fights we're gonna have our debates, but I mean that that. Well, imagine if we didn't, I mean, just how much more isolated? How much more isolated will be well,
right. This is something you and I talked about last week, isolation for many young people. And communities could be a problem like Philadelphia and Baltimore where they haven't been able Got to see their friends or members of their family like they, like they typically are used to. Yeah. And that is extremely important for them in terms of their lives. And yet, whether it's mental health or physical health issues, or many of them, or even job opportunities, quite frankly, it's played, played a huge role.
And I think some of the I mean, each community is different. But I mean, we've seen a significant uptick in violence. And I think, you know, part of it is related to the social isolation, isolation and despair that people are experiencing. I know, at some point somebody is going to gang show was out of here. For the young people in the room, you can Google that. I just want to leave you with this thought the back that way back in the Wayback Machine of 2020. And wherever you were, in, you know, depending on the community March or February, March, somewhere in that time period, and somebody announce, you know, your city, your town, your company, something is shutting down, go home. So we have a worldwide pandemic, followed immediately by severe fiscal distress companies and the public sector, followed by massive national international, racial reckoning, unrest, protests, some violence, and a fairly crazy presidential election. Fairly, all in one year, any one of which would have been kind of a thing in and of itself, all four happen, three of which are still going on. And for some people, the fourth one is still happening. Right? This the aft the impact of 2020 will stay with us for a while. And for some of that tissue a little bit. But for some of the younger people in the room, for Broderick and I, and some others, you know, our default is always kind of, you know, well, 1968, or we just talked about the 60s, right, it was all about the 60s. For many of you, it'll be 2020 will be a point of inflection of the change in American and international life. Through it all, because you saw it all, because you were able to see it all, everything that happened every day in every community, you could see what was happening, because you were connected.
Right. And so we have to continue to connect millions more. It's not it's not even, I wouldn't even put it that way. Because it's about empowering people. It's not the sense of telling people, this is good for you. Because I said it's good for you, it's helping people to understand this is how they can empower themselves to change their own lives. And that's that's a message that often gets lost in, in the advocacy around issues like this, you know, helping people take advantage of opportunities themselves. And not just being told you need to do this because Comcast said you should do this, or President Biden said you should do this or Mayor Nutter said you should do this. But people feel that way themselves. I think a lot of young people get it. And a lot of young people know what's at stake. And they just need to have the tools and the opportunities presented to them so they can work with their own families and communities to become part of this, this global economy in this global world. So yeah, what's about?
So whatever you do, whatever your business is, I mean, just know that somehow, someway, every one of you have has a role to play is playing a significant role. And whether you meet any of these folks or not you having a positive impact on somebody's life every day from the work that you do. And there's just nothing like
so. So before someone hits the gong, and yeah, again, for those of you who
seem to be just let those go. I think we should we should just just keep talking
to my favorite show is actually family feud and family feud that on for a long time, too. But well on that Steve Harvey's first name is Broderick by the way, just in case you all didn't know that. Yeah, his his mom, I
think that would have gone. I think that just doesn't roll like Steve Harvey,
I guess not on the TV. Oh, well, I beg to differ. But anyway. But I wanted to leave you all with with a couple key messages that hopefully you've got out of our brief fireside chat. And if you even if you haven't, I want to leave you with these messages. First. Again, we've talked about this broadband kept us connected during the pandemic. And this was the result of massive private sector investment that was also focused on In the future, so when the pandemic hit, it wasn't like, oh, how are we going to handle this? Second, the digital divide certainly remains. I remember talking about the digital divide when I worked in the Clinton administration, back then it was about conductivity largely, again. Now, I would say, an awful lot of it is about adoption. We're making progress on both, but we have a long way to go. Next, with all this infrastructure money that's being spent, it needs to be spent smartly. We don't need to see duplicative efforts that result in money being being wasted. You know, for many another message for many low income families, certainly struggling to make ends meet. Challenging to think about signing up to the Internet. But broadband service is affordable for so many millions of those families now, as a result of the Affordable connectivity act, broadband, why does it matter? You know, jobs, jobs of the future educational opportunities, telehealth all those things, then finally, let me say this about cost. So while our companies, Comcast, certainly among them, has invested so much, in our networks, the costs of broadband has stayed relatively low, and certainly relative to inflation. It has stayed, stayed well below inflation. In many other industries. And by a non adjusted inflation, we've actually seen decline in prices, though, that's information that really matters. Because if we get stuck in a debate, that is sort of the political debate around things like affordability without understanding that adoption is one of our biggest challenges, we lose sight of the difference that we can make. So those are the points I wanted to end with besides saying that it's great to be here with you man and, and to appreciate the the work that we're doing together by bringing these issues to the forefront. But we also worked on My Brother's Keeper together. And this mayor is mayor of Philadelphia. And I see Kip Wayne Scott, who was on our White House staff, it's great to see you get and he knows how much effort we put into My Brother's Keeper working with mayor's like you, and a difference that it can that it made and continues to make. So brother, it's great to spend this time with you.
Absolutely. So I have a earpiece in and they said that the next group was different their time. And that we could just just stay and talk some more.
So where's your earpiece connected to?
Oh, um, oh, it's it's, I got it from Internet Essentials. fully wired.
And you are on? Set. I'm not sure that that message came from. We know there are others.
Somebody says, This is what I get to do now. You know, you know that. You know, being mayor was great. But you know, what's even better job but former.
Well, you know, you are a great mayor. Well, great mayor, and you continue to be a great leader. So I'm trying it's an honor. I guess I said, Yeah, cuz my earpiece is saying we have to go now okay,
you know, get many speaking opportunity. So you know, I gotta get
very much. Thank you.