A computer for free sounds like a can’t-lose deal, but I would be cautious (you know what they say about something that sounds too good to be true). My advice is to be sure and read that fine print on the contract. Three years is a long time and they obviously want to lock people n for a reason. Get some word of mouth opinions about the provider (beyond the salesman, I mean). You don’t want to always get a busy signal or get dumped every few minutes, requiring a call-back so that you have 3 years of frustration and not enjoyment. You don’t want to get stuck with a provider that is ridiculously slow or always covered in advertising or has a lot of hidden charges. We tried a month of “free” compuserve once and in just a couple of days we had racked up $30 or $40 in hidden charges – thank heavens we checked our account so we didn’t get an even worse surprise at the end of the month.
Make sure they can’t raise the monthly price on you for any reason, and also figure out how much 3 years of that service is going to cost you, and compare it to rates of other providers. If they’re charging you $50/month for the contract and you could have hooked up with another provider for $15/month, that’s $1800 versus $540 at the end of 3 years. Is the computer they are offering free really worth the $1300 it costs in added provider charges? Maybe you could get a better computer for $1300 and choose your own provider.
Of course this is all hypothetical because I don’t know what the real numbers are and I’m no computer guru so I’m talking over my head, anyway. I just know that my dh has looked at these sorts of ads in the past and figured that they really weren’t a very good deal. But that was in the past, and numbers could change. It might be a good deal, once you crunch the numbers and shop around.