Flickr: rodrigo senna 
Flickr: rodrigo senna

A growing number of 3G wireless providers including AT&T and Verizon in the US and Orange, Vodafone, and Carphone Warehouse in Europe are beginning to offer subsidized netbooks to customers who sign up for long term service plans. The deals work much the same way as cellphone subsidies. A netbook may normally cost $400, but when you sign up for a 2 year contract, you can get it for $99 or less.

But netbooks aren’t cellphones. They’re laptops. And while a wireless carrier can charge you a fee and disable your cellphone service if you stop paying your bill, the repercussions for breaking a netbook wireless contract aren’t as great. You’ll still have a fully functional computer. Or will you?

The AP is reporting that LM Ericsson AB, a company that makes 3G modems plans to build a new feature into upcoming wireless modules that will let carriers send a signal to a customer’s netbook that makes it impossible to turn the computer on. An Ericsson VP says the feature is called a “kill pill.” 

It’s not clear yet whether any wireless carriers will actually use this new feature. But I can imagine a lot of ways for this to go horribly, horribly wrong. I kind of hope it’s an early April Fool’s joke. 

via The Inquistr

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9 replies on “Subsidized netbooks may come with remote kill switch”

  1. And once again companies think they can just rent everything out to you, and have you on the hook forever…

    I think I’ll buy my own netbook at full price and just use their USB dongles, thanks. I like having my own computer.

  2. Definitely a farce. It will never happen here. Not only would it be a marketing nightmare, but it clearly tells the consumer they don’t own what they just bought, they are just renting it. Its ludicrous to think that any carrier in their right minds in the US would do this IF they could get away with it. NEVER gonna happen. Just some big brother hype.

  3. Some top end smartphones cost at least as much as netbooks, and are trivial to unlock and use with someone else’s cheaper tariff, so it’s not really so very different – and as Mikez says, existing contract law should be adequate for enforcement.

    [P.S. Thanks for rejigging comment submission while I was trying to post this! ;-)]

  4. There are laws against such interference with the operation
    of a computer system in the U.S.A.
    So don’t expect the kill pill to happen here – –

    In the U.S.A. a common carrier has two recourses –
    Discontinue the data plan;
    Try to collect money’s owed under contract law.

    1. Some top end smartphones cost at least as much as netbooks, and are trivial to unlock and use with someone else’s cheaper tariff, so it’s not really so very different – and as Mikez says, existing contract law should be adequate for enforcement.

  5. Care to take a bet on how long it takes to bypass the “kill pill”?

Comments are closed.