Trying Hard to Put Access in Every Pot

FRAMINGHAM (07/17/2000) - After applauding Ford Motor Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc. in February for picking up part of the tab for connecting employees' homes to the Net, I decided to try to pull together a similar program for Network World. Easier said than done.

The company that Ford and Delta work through is PeoplePC Inc., which buys bandwidth and PCs in bulk and passes on the savings to customers in the form of attractively priced machine/service bundles. While the average consumer pays US$25 per month for the bundle, companies like Ford underwrite part of the expense and employees only pay $5 per month to get online.

I contacted the company about a corporate deal and, surprisingly, it said it was still finalizing the program and would get back to me soon (Ford and Delta must have been beta customers).

Two months passed and I messaged them asking what was up, and they wrote back asking if I would fill out an online questionnaire.

Some of the questions were obvious, like how many employees we have (150), what kind of systems we need (the entry level 400-MHz Celeron Toshiba would do fine), and what type of software and Net access would be required (Microsoft Works, 56K dial-up).

But the company also wanted up to 200 words explaining my "primary objective for an employee connectivity program." That struck me as kind of odd. They also wanted me to rank a list of reasons for initiating a connectivity program, things like: enhance employees' technical knowledge and skills; reduce communication and administrative costs; and, attract and retain employees.

Either Network World is too small to bother with or they didn't like the way I answered the survey, because it has been three weeks and I haven't heard from them. The long and short of it is PeoplePC seems to be struggling a bit getting its corporate program off the ground.

In the meantime, however, I signed up for one of their packages for my home and can report that the overall experience is very good.

The online sign-up form is straightforward, the system arrived promptly and setting it up and logging on to the Net was a snap.

If the company could get its act together I would recommend the service as a way of pushing your work force into the Internet age.

- John Dix

Editor in chief

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