Cable television

Cable TV Pioneer and Founder of Wilco Electronics Will Daniel Passes Away at 86


Will Daniel, 86, of Ambler, owner of Wilco Electronic Systems Inc. and pioneer of the establishment of cable television in Philadelphia, died Sunday, April 18 at Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health, surrounded by his family.

His family said he was actively working until a few weeks ago.

Mr. Daniel founded Wilco, an African-American private cable company, in May 1977.

In 1980, Home Box Office, the leading pay television service, granted Wilco a franchise to market its programming in multi-unit buildings. This was the first time HBO has granted a franchise to a minority-owned company in the eastern United States, Wilco said in a press release about Mr. Daniel’s death.

In Wilco’s statement, David Cohen, former senior executive vice president of Comcast, who is now a senior advisor to Comcast Corp., described Mr. Daniel as a “Philadelphia icon.”

“He was a visionary businessman who never lost sight of the community he came from. He has been a true partner of Comcast, helping our business grow in Philadelphia and take root in the African American community. His advice was always premonitory. He will be missed by his friends at Comcast, but more importantly in Philadelphia, he will be missed for his leadership and his commitment to improving life. “

Prior to starting his own business, Mr. Daniel had worked for Marco Video Systems Inc. for 19 years. It was at Marco that he began to design and build cable systems.

Due to his early experience with cable, Mr. Daniel worked with the administration of former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. in the early 1980s to develop the Philadelphia cable franchise process, where cable companies were to bid to provide service in four areas of the city. .

He was a partner and minority owner of the Rollins Cablevision franchise, and subsequently received capital when Rollins was sold to Comcast Cablevision.

After the Rollins sale, Mr. Daniel began a 40-year friendship with Ralph J. Roberts, founder of Comcast. As a result of this relationship, Wilco and Comcast created a partnership model in which low-cost cable services were made available to underserved, low-income communities in Philadelphia.

In 2001, Wilco became the exclusive provider of cable television services for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the company said.

In January 2018, Comcast acquired the cable assets of Wilco and invested in significant upgrades to Wilco’s infrastructure at the PHA sites. Comcast now offers residents access to Comcast Xfinity products, including Internet Essentials, its Internet service for low-income families.

Wilco is now focusing on installing the low voltage wiring and designing the access control systems necessary for the concept of “smart homes”.

“We have pivoted our business on the foundation of what my father started,” said Brigitte Daniel-Corbin, CEO and President of Wilco.

But the wiring the company is installing today is for new technologies, where physical objects are integrated with sensors and software, so that lighting systems, security cameras, thermostats and other devices can be controlled by smart phones.

She said she learned from her father about people and relationships and the importance of cultivating those relationships. She said integrity was a big part of her character. “He was always about keeping your reputation strong and keeping it high.”

“As a father, I loved him and he loved me a lot,” said Daniel-Corbin. “I am so honored that he has instilled in me so much confidence in the legacy of his company.”

Will Daniel was born in February 1935 in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, to John and Mary Daniel. He was the ninth of 11 children. Daniel-Corbin said his father learned his work ethic from being part of the family farming business.

“What he learned is the importance of hard work,” she said. “You get up early, you go to work on the farm, then you go to school. That hard work ethic is what he brought to Philadelphia, and he maintained those skills until his final weeks.

After completing his studies, Mr. Daniel served for three years in the military, where he began to acquire skills in electronics and communication.

After leaving the military in 1955, he returned to North Carolina before moving to Philadelphia the following year, where Mr. Daniel studied electronics at a vocational school and then went to work for Marco Video Systems.

During his early years in Philadelphia, Mr. Daniel married his first wife, Victoria, with whom he had two sons. The marriage ended amicably in divorce, her daughter said.

Around the time he started Wilco, he married his second wife, Virginia Smith, a schoolteacher from Philadelphia. The couple had a daughter, Daniel-Corbin. After 25 years, this marriage also ended in an amicable divorce.

Around 2006, he married his third wife, Lucille.

Daniel-Corbin said his father enjoyed friendly relations with his former wives and often brought all of his family together for family functions.

For 40 years, Mr. Daniel has been an active member of the Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown. He then joined the Bethlehem Baptist Church at Spring House.

Besides his daughter, his wife Lucille and his ex-spouses, Mr. Daniel is survived by his sons Darryl and Vance; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, as well as other relatives and friends.

People can pay their respects to Mr. Daniel from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 712 Penllyn Pike, Spring House.

A funeral service will be broadcast live on Friday, April 30, starting at 9 a.m. on bbc4christ.org and bbandhodges.com. The service itself will start at 11 a.m.


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