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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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December 18, 2008 11:11 AM

If I Ran AT&T...; I'd Start Selling PCs Too

As regular readers of App-Rising.com know, I'm often more likely to criticize than praise AT&T;, who co-sponsors this blog. I'm not one to give false praise, nor one to go overboard in trumpeting minor happenings.

But I have to admit I'm excited by one of AT&T;'s latest initiatives: to start selling subsidized netbooks tied to wireless contracts.

First off, a netbook is a new class of small laptop that typically has less horsepower for running desktop apps but plenty of power to run Internet apps.

What AT&T;'s essentially doing is taking the cellphone model and applying it to offering netbooks. When you a buy a cellphone you're almost always paying less upfront than the phone costs as cellphone providers subsidizes that cost in order to get you to sign up for long-term contracts. Now the same thing's happening with these netbooks, which instead of costing hundreds of dollars will now be $100 and even less, assuming you sign up for a long-term wireless contract.

It's a brilliant move that makes a ton of sense, yet I can't help but think: why not expand it to include landlines and desktop computers?

Why not offer prospective DSL subscribers the ability to get a low-powered desktop computer for free if they sign up for a two-year contract? Or what about giving customers the option to pay $10 a month extra to rent a computer? What if you also offered a computer for free if the customer's willing to have ads scroll across the bottom of the screen?

I know these aren't all totally new ideas that have never been tried, but I've never seen them implemented in the context of a broadband provider subsidizing computers in order to get more customers equipped to use their service.

And to be honest, I like market-driven, innovative approaches like this much more than I do government attempting to buy or subsidize computers for the less well off.

While those measures may ultimately be needed, there seems to be opportunities for broadband providers to be more forward-thinking in how they approach the issue of the digital divide, and potentially turn a profit in doing so.

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