Broadening our netizenry?

Many milestones of the Internet age have sprung from unheralded births.

HANDY INTERNET FOR EVERYONE. Goodbye wires, goodbye expensive Net services. Image from PLDT MyBro

MANILA, Philippines – Many milestones of the Internet age have sprung from unheralded births.

Without Wikipedia or any other online (or even print) resource, we’d most likely be at a loss if asked when Facebook was born, when the very first Apple computer was made, when the first person started Googling, when Microsoft began its assimilation into human lives. 

I realize this now given that today marks PLDT’s launch of My Bro, the Net-access tool formerly known as Smart Bro, which seeks to provide a relatively affordable broadband connection. 

The product’s introduction will likely be accompanied by ads all over the place — even down to our very dreams, if only technology inspired by director Christopher Nolan’s Inception already existed.

Yet soon enough, the promotional noise would pipe down, the public won’t bother to take note of this date in their journals or calendars, and it would then be up to the device to work its mojo among its convinced customers.

Home tweet home

To be exact, My Bro is aimed at young bros and gals, and their worry-prone parents, to persuade them to do their online work and play, their researching and tweeting, at home. This is instead of venturing out to a so-called Internet café (no coffee, all noisy) or an actual, wi-fi-equipped café (hello, priceyccino). 

More specifically, the brains behind this connectivity tool are out to entice families whose every centavo is accounted for, who might have sold the family carabao to send the promising firstborn off to college, who might be settling domestic debts peso by grueling peso.

And with the Internet having grown tremendous in its versatility — such that the line between TV sets and PC monitors has blurred to be almost non-existent and, generations after ours, printing machines could end up as museum artifact — it is rather inevitable that even citizens in the remotest of villages and coastal areas would be engrossed in the kind of surfing that can be done without water.

Less, less, less

The My Bro come-ons are familiar enough: affordability (either P799 or P999 a month, which could also add to Psych 101 pundits’ fascination with catchy pricing), absence of unsightly wires (due to the “fixed wireless” format, whereby the device is USB-connected to one’s computer), zero time limit (25 hours a day, to quote GoodAh!!!), high speeds (either 512 kilobytes per second or 1 megabyte per sec), easy compatibility (minimum requirements include 10 GB hard disk space and Windows 2000 OS) and strong signal (this is from the outfit, after all, that had coined the consumerist term “nationwidest”). 

In other words, My Bro is attuned to the less, less, less/more, more, more times. That is, less cost, less wires, less limits, less tech requirements, more time online, more speed and — the product’s proprietors wish to posit — more quality family time arising from both stay-at-home usage and completion of online to-do’s sooner than if done outside.

And since thousands of urban homes are already Net-connected, My Bro’s makers are gunning for two sets of folks: those in far-off areas where residents remain Net virgins or those who are financially far removed from the cities’ can-affords. (There’s also a third set: those who might long to get unstuck from their unwieldy plug-it dongles.)

Time will reveal

Whether My Bro is availed of by its target audience, whether it becomes a truly rewarding tool, whether it would sizzle or fizzle, certainly remains to be seen.

Even with the fast pace of practically everything these days, this device’s impact upon people’s lives could be discerned only years from now, and in terms that are not as quantifiable as the actual number of people who’d spring for the thing.

Coincidentally enough, the product’s TV commercial speaks of this very same conjecture. The TVC shows a bright young freshman explaining how he got to his “dream college” then depicts 3 defining moments of his high school years in reverse order, culminating in his ma’s My Bro acquisition. (Incidentally, the TV spot’s rewind mode recalls Memento, another Nolan flick.)

As with many a means of empowerment, My Bro is the latest in many proverbial seeds at one’s disposal. While only time will tell if the device could reap embodiments of success among its users, I am personally looking forward to its contribution to finally producing not just countless more kababayan who can vote for Jessica Sanchez’s American Idol descendants but Filipinos who could conceive the online world’s next big craze. –

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