Expansion of the program to further facilitate access to major shows

The number on the poster stopped me in my tracks like today’s gas prices. Except in the opposite direction.

It offered an internet plan for $24.99 per month, a significant fraction of what I and most people pay.

The reason turned out better than I thought.

Even before the pandemic, Comcast launched a program aimed at low-income households. Called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), with the additional moniker PHLConnectED, it provided internet, cable, and other current communication items to families at discounted prices.

Aiming to benefit children and keep low-income families in step with a world that increasingly depends on internet access for basic information and educational needs, the CPA has subsidized eligible households d a possible $30 per package, reducing costs and providing needed communication options to households that might otherwise find a monthly subscription out of reach.

The benefits resulting from such a program seem endless. Children, and students in particular, would have the informational resources to compete and keep abreast of the lessons being taught in school. They would also have the benefit of seeing programs and items that add to cultural literacy, including what every child could talk about in the schoolyard.

As an adult, I bemoan the number of businesses that no longer accept phone calls or even have customer service phone numbers. ACP, by providing the internet, allows people to access the points of sale with which they do business, points of sale which would be unavailable without access to the web.

An ACP was launched, and Comcast saw how much it was helping families with children, Comcast expanded its reach to include seniors and others whose incomes prevented them from seeking Internet access.

Eligibility remains a key element of the CPA. A family must qualify based on a number of criteria which, once provided via the ACP application, are reviewed by Comcast and a granting agency, the federal government.

Once approved, Comcast may offer free and discounted internet options that provide the eligible household with up to $30 per month.

Another good news is that eligible customers can apply ACP credits to any level of Xfinity Internet, including Internet Essentials.

In Philadelphia, Comcast has partnered with the city to create PHLConnectED, a program that returns to the CPA’s original purpose of providing free, reliable Internet access to eligible students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

This partnership was especially important during the pandemic, when so much teaching was done online.

“As the world becomes more digital, it’s crucial that everyone has the resources they need to excel in today’s economy,” said Dennis Matthew, senior vice president, Comcast Freedom Region.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is a unique opportunity that Comcast is proud to offer to all of our eligible customers, so they can connect and stay connected to the Internet.”

Comcast recently introduced two new ways for customers to take advantage of ACP.

One is the Internet Essentials Plus plan which doubles the download speed. Customers who qualify for this option effectively get broadband for free once the government discount is applied.

The other is Xfinity Mobile, which includes a 5G network and allows qualified customers to save money on out-of-home connectivity needs. The government subsidy, once approved, reduces basic monthly telephone charges by nearly half. The customer also has the option to choose between an unlimited plan or a pay-as-you-go plan, By the Gig, or even choose to switch back and forth between the plans.

One can apply to the ACP by visiting www.xfinity.com/learn/internet-service/acp or by calling 1-844-389-4681. For more information about PHLConnectED, go to www.phila.gov/programs/phlconnected.

Comcast is also in the midst of a campaign called ProjectUP which involves a billion dollar commitment to reach millions of people over the next 10 years and equip them with the tools, skills and resources to succeed in a world digital.

Film & Television Carnival

– IMDb User Rating: 8.7 – Years On Air: 2010-2015 Even at the height of the “Downton Abbey” craze, this acclaimed British drama showed its fair share of “jump the shark” moments. Some reviewers point out that Matthew Crawley’s spontaneous recovery from a brutal injury in Series 2 is pretty ridiculous. Most believe the Series 4 finale is when the show got a little too silly for its own good.

‘Downton Abbey’ fans are in for a treat

‘Downton Abbey’ fans are grateful for any new appearances from their beloved characters in the 52 episodes of the British series which began airing in America in 2011.

They’ll be pleased to know that the current movie, “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” which opened in theaters Friday for general release, is much more of a stand-alone piece, with movie-like twists, than the movie. from 2019 which was more like a typical “Downton” episode, only extended.

Yes, there are nifty television-like devices that keep any crisis from getting too tense with quick and convenient solutions, like when two housekeepers, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Daisy (Sophie McShera), solve a dilemma that thwarts their employers and a director trying to deal with a wayward injured actress, but for the most part, “Downton: A New Era” leaves room for genuine drama and character development beyond what’s been seen in the original series.

The first thing that struck me when the movie started, and Downton’s famous aerial shot popped up amid the show’s familiar theme music, was how much older the cast members looked. . The Crawley family’s daughters, Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Edith (Laura Carmichael), first seen in their youth, now register as middle-aged.

Well, it’s been 11 years since we first met them.

Another difference I noticed is how universally well-heeled the long-running cast looked.

Several of them play pampered aristocrats, so a bit of polish is expected. Regardless of whether a character lives upstairs or works downstairs, all seem to have benefited from the dozen years of continuous pay that “Downton” has provided.

You don’t have to be familiar with all things ‘Downton’ to enjoy ‘The New Era’. Much more than the first film, it works on its own.

Naturally, familiarity helps, but the themes of mortality and one generation smoothly succeeding another have a resonance that doesn’t require “Downton’s” expertise.

The exception are references to dead or missing characters, such as Mary and Edith’s deceased sister, Lady Sybil, whose daughter is a central figure in “The New Era”.

For the most part, “Downton Abbey: The New Era” is fun even though one of its three storylines involves illness and includes the death of perhaps the show’s most beloved character.

The other two storylines leave plenty of room for humor, each set in a setting that allows for a different type of story than was usual when “Downton” was a series.

One concerns an estate on the French Riviera acquired by Violet Crawley, the Dowager Duchess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), via a banter she had more than 60 years before ‘A New Era’ took place. .

The question here is whether the all-too-appropriate Duchess has compromised her marriage to the father of the current Lord Grantham. Paternity issues also erupt.

While a contingent from Downton that does not include the Duchess travels to France to work out the details of this unexpected villa, Downton itself becomes a film set, its grounds and interior being leased to a film company which wished for its truly Victorian atmosphere and furnishings.

The film celebrated cinema while showing its sudden frustrations, complications, and problems. Even funnier is what the characters of Downton, played after all by actors in a show, have to say about the actors occupying their premises and about show business in general.

It’s all well done, the best part being that everything looks and feels natural as the house staff and the few family members left in England oscillate between being fascinated by what they witness and appalled by the recklessness of the actors and the filming crew. .

The acting of “Downton Abbey” has always been excellent, but its quality has evolved over the years. Rather than taking their characters for granted, as a long-term cast would, the “Downton” performers seem to get richer and more detailed in their roles.

Leaving aside everyone’s favorite character, the Dowager Duchess of Smith, my favorites have always been the intelligent, clear-spoken Lady Mary of Dockery and the family’s cook, Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol).

In “The New Era,” Dockery gives a nuanced performance as a woman who has realized she may soon be the dominant force at Downton. She has several complex scenes and handled each one with masterful aplomb, in particular one is that Lady Mary has to fight her nature to resist a romantic overture, alongside a more successful pairing of an actor to one of the members. Downton staff.

Of course, “Downton” has always benefited from the presence of many of Britain’s finest actors – Smith, Penelope Wilton and Jim Carter, in the films joined by his real wife, Imelda Staunton, soon to be the next Queen Elizabeth II on “The Crown ”- and, as usual, they arrive.

There’s a casual scene of Staunton helping Carter buy a hat. Wilton, as always, is the picture of common sense. The star of “Downton”, however, remains Maggie Smith.

Smith doesn’t need any awards for her acting, but she received an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Violet.

Nothing in the first “Downton” film mentioned “Oscar,” except perhaps for the sets and costumes, and “The New Era” seems to follow suit. Smith is her typical, dry, witty Duchess with good advice, because when she tells Mary that a woman has two choices, that’s how she’s seen in the world, and Mary should aspire to “to be a dragon”. She pulls off several great bon mots and seems to be on her way to another delightful but not unexpected performance.

Towards the end of “The New Era”, something changes. The Duchess is facing controversy and has serious health problems. These situations give Smith the opportunity to show what good acting is all about. She does two moments, a scene with Wilton about the letters from the French Marquis who wants her villa, and the final scene with the Duchess, which go beyond the script to reveal the artistry that Maggie Smith, now aged 87 years old, demonstrated since my first fall. in love with his genius watching “The VIPs” in 1963, when Smith was 29 and I was 12.

I don’t expect an Oscar nomination for ‘The New Era’ but given the depth Smith provides and the emotion she evokes in the scenes mentioned, especially the letter scene, Dame Maggie deserves a nomination if she received one.

Neal Zoren’s TV column appears every Monday.

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