Internet company Virtual Communities last week finalised one of Australia's largest Internet and PC bundle deals for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Australian Retirement Fund (ARF).
As reported in ARN on November 10, the 2.1 million members of the ACTU and the 400,000 members and 20,000 staff of the ARF will have access to hardware from IBM and Internet access provided by Primus for an initial $60 down payment then $9.50 a week over three-and-a-half years.
The offer includes an Aptiva PC and 36 hours of Internet access in the first week and 16 hours per four weeks after that. Additional time is charged at one cent a minute.
Customers will own the PC after the contract lapses.
Virtual Communities, which organised the whole offering and tendered out the hardware and ISP contracts, will manage the initiative and is providing the deal at cost, according to Ed Smith, general manager of the Internet company.
`Virtual Communities is all about reducing barriers to getting people on the Internet. It's usually either too expensive or too complicated,' said Smith.
For this reason the package includes delivery, set up and training to be handled by Virtual Communities.
Virtual Communities will reap the rewards of its philanthropy when in January it launches its content strategy and `various e-commerce initiatives' to the ACTU and ARF, as well as to several football clubs, Catholic churches and other organisations.
`This will be a better, richer and simpler solution than anything out there at the moment,' said Smith.
The ARF has already invested part of its $100 million development fund into the Melbourne company.
Smith said there had already been huge demand for the offer, claiming it offers a lot more than the failed Internet and PC bundles made available through retail stores recently.
`Retail stores offer ridiculous consumer finance options at very high interest rates,' said Smith. `Virtual Communities on the other hand is about getting people online, it's not about selling huge numbers of boxes or about making money.'
However, Smith believes that if the deal does take off it will `give e-commerce the chance to fly in Australia'.
Other variants of the offer are the $11.50 a week education pack, which includes a colour printer and education software and the $12.95 a week business package, which comes equipped with a colour printer, education and business software.