By Jim Samaha, Senior Vice President, Comcast Freedom Region
Like our fellow Philadelphians, we couldn’t have been prouder to host the World Meeting of Families (WMoF) and Pope Francis in our City, and couldn’t be humbler about having had an opportunity to help the City and our customers prepare for, experience and enjoy the historic visit and events.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of employees in our Freedom Region, which serves Philadelphia, and at our corporate headquarters, for working around the clock to deliver a seamless experience for all involved. I also want to thank our customers for their advance planning and assistance – they truly made our jobs easier and made the visit a special experience for our technicians and other team members across Philadelphia. Finally, we are thankful for the support of the many talented teams we worked with over the past year, including the City of Philadelphia, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, the World Meeting of Families host committee, and many other agencies and officials who ensured close communication and collaboration to anticipate and address special needs.
Whether it was constructing 3,120 feet of conduit, placing 6,000 feet of fiber optic and coaxial cable, volunteering for 12-hour shifts in the field, or deploying hundreds of Xfinity WiFi “hotzones” on 30 jumbotrons that ultimately allowed attendees to view the papal events and share images and videos with friends and family, the papal visit was about teamwork and sharing a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Our extensive preparations, which included everything from remote network monitoring teams with 24/7 eyes on our network to portable generators, fuel delivery trucks, mobile HVAC units, satellite phones and more, ensured smooth operations. And our dozens of team members and vehicles placed in strategic locations in restricted areas were able to quickly (and creatively) support and resolve unexpected service interruptions – in fact, in most cases, they were able to get to customers within two hours of a call.
I am happy to report that our teams’ extraordinary preparations, round-the-clock staffing, tight coordination with multiple agencies, and tireless commitment brought a very successful end to the weekend’s events, allowing us to deliver reliable service and quick assistance to customers within the Francis Fairgrounds and no-drive zones. In addition, we were able to enhance the experience for many by opening thousands of outdoor Xfinity WiFi hotspots to non-customers for the week, and host special events at the Comcast Center like a live viewing of the papal mass and the 13-minute Eternally Rome show – a visual celebration of the ancient, beautiful city, shot using high-resolution cinematography – on “The Comcast Experience” video wall. Some of the many highlights include:
- Our Xfinity WiFi network supported almost 4.3 million sessions across the Greater Philadelphia area, carrying almost 114.9 terabytes of data – or the equivalent of almost 38 million high resolution (3 MB) photos of Pope Francis.
- More than 250,000 unique users accessed Xfinity WiFi across the Region, with almost 360,000 unique devices. These include hotspots both in Center City and in surrounding areas like SEPTA stations that visitors used throughout their stays.
- More than 18,000 people viewed the Eternally Rome presentation and papal mass in the lobby of the Comcast Center. Showings of Eternally Rome have been extended through Sunday, October 4, as a result of great interest and to enable more visitors to the Comcast Center to see it.
- We’re equally proud of the extraordinarily small number of service issues or calls that needed to be managed over the weekend. Intense advance planning and preparations resulted in trouble calls that were almost 70% below an average weekend, and our teams were able to very quickly and safely dispatch techs to resolve the few calls we did receive, with almost all addressed within a two hour timeframe. In addition, advance communications with customers helped them plan ahead and also use self-service options like My Account and automated phone systems to get answers and resolve issues remotely at their convenience.
The security precautions and other challenges associated with the papal visit left room for nothing less than creative and unprecedented solutions, and I could not be prouder of our technicians, engineers, customer care representatives, and other frontline and behind-the-scenes employees who served our hometown during this historic event.