2018-01-31 / Columns

Comcast’s David Cohen talks about the future of technology


The week before last, I had a chat with David Cohen, senior executive vice president of Comcast Corporation, who was appearing on a panel sponsored by the Philadelphia Jewish Federation’s Real Estate group at the Ballroom at the Ben in Center City.

Comcast is trying to ensure that its customers get a good viewing experience regardless of the device they are using to consume video content, Cohen said. Between traditional broadcast channels, cable, and “over the top” streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, customers have many more options.

“For millennials, who are not big ‘appointment TV in the living room’ viewers of video, we’re trying to make sure they get the video they want on the device they want, that works in the location they are, and they can watch anything they want when they want to watch it,” he said.

Cohen explained that despite customer perceptions that the company is mainly involved in drilling holes to connect cables for television, Comcast is also involved in high-speed data services through its Internet offerings, and home security and home management services.

The company is rolling out a WiFi management product called “XFi” that parents can use to control kids’ access to online services at certain times, just by using a smartphone app.

“Say you’re about to have dinner and you see your kids are all on their devices, you go into your phone and shut off the WiFi,” he said. “It’s the ability to bring more control and more refinement into the home.”

The “Internet of Things,” connecting devices of all kinds to the Internet, is exploding with opportunities for Comcast outside the home, Cohen said.

Waste haulers can add sensors to garbage dumpsters that can alert the company when a dumpster is full, helping the company dispatch trucks more efficiently, and reduce the number of trips where dumpsters are partially empty, he said.

Offices will see some of the most dramatic technological advances, Cohen pointed out. The company is building its second skyscraper in Center City, known as the Comcast Technology Center. The 60- story complex will be a home for the company’s engineers and software designers, and will have “1.3 million square feet of office space and no offices,” said Cohen. The space was designed with input from the engineers and software teams, to be open and collaborative, a “vertical technology campus,” Cohen said.

The building will have state-of-the-art technology and ultrahigh speed Internet access, according to Cohen.

The company is also deeply involved in efforts to bridge the so-called “digital divide,” the lack of access to Internet connectivity in poorer communities.

“We’re leaving behind a quarter of the country; those people tend to be disproportionately poor, they tend to be disproportionately people of color,” he said. Many live in rural areas, but

75 percent live in urban locations.

“The research says there are three major impediments to broadband adoption for that population, the most significant of which is a bucket of digital literacy and digital relevancy skills,” Cohen said. “The other two are that it’s a population that doesn’t have computer equipment and they have trouble affording the Internet connection itself.”

Comcast “Internet Essentials” offers digital literacy training, subsidized and discounted computers, and $9.95 a month Internet access. The service has about one million subscribing households after six years of outreach, Cohen said.

You can see my complete video interview with Cohen (and other leaders of the Philadelphia business community) at http://bit.ly/ComcastCohen.

Email me at steve@compuschmooze.com with your questions or comments. Follow @PodcastSteve on Twitter. 

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