Delta Airlines became the second major US company in as many days to provide its staff with PCs and Internet access for a minimal monthly fee to boost their technology skills.
The move followed Ford Motor's announcement of a similar scheme yesterday. Ford plans to provide its 350,000 employees with free Hewlett-Packard (HP) PCs and printers, and Internet access from Uunet, an MCI WorldCom company, for a monthly fee of $5.
But Delta said it would offer its 72,000 employees consumer PCs for up to $12 per month over a three year period. The PCs will be based on 500MHz Intel chips and come with 64Mb of Ram, a monitor, keyboard, mouse, software and free Web access provided by AT&T.
PeoplePC, which is overseeing the Ford programme, will also handle Delta's initiative. The scheme will be financed by both employee copayments and a "very significant subsidy" from Delta.
Leo Mullin, Delta's chairman, president and chief executive, said: "We have developed this Wired Workforce programme in conjunction with PeoplePC because we believe that personal computers are not only basic business machines, they are also excellent and essential communications tools for the 21 century."
A second Delta spokesman added that the voluntary plan would pave the way for every employee to connect to the Internet and to Delta's internal intranet. "It's a huge cultural change in the way of thinking in Delta," he said.
He added that Delta was still in negotiations with potential suppliers, but had so far shortlisted Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Toshiba, and hoped to reach a decision in the next few weeks. The company was also considering introducing a similar intiative for laptop use, he said.
Nick Grouf, PeoplePC's chairman and chief executive, said: "This is a trend in American business. Organisations are equipping their employees with better tools so they can get closer to customers."
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