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Gateway offers fast support, for a fee

Under the PC maker's new Priority Access program, small businesses will pay at least $39 per user for a year of expedited support.

Gateway on Monday announced a new pay-for-service technical-support program for small businesses.

The Priority Access program is meant for small companies, government agencies and schools that use Gateway's E series and Sb series desktop PCs. Gateway said program customers will connect directly to its technicians--bypassing phone menus--and that the maximum waiting time will be 30 seconds.

Companies with E series desktops can get the service at $99 per user for three years, $119 for four years and $149 for five years. Support for Sb series customers is priced per user at $39 for one year, $69 for two years and $99 for three years. The support includes next-business day shipments of replacement parts and on-site installation and repair.

The Poway, Calif.-based computer maker is going through a major shift, following its acquisition of eMachines, a leading seller of PCs through retail channels. Earlier this month, Gateway announced that it plans to lay off about 40 percent of its employees and close its brick-and-mortar stores. The latter move is seen by analysts as a way for the company to form relationships with third-party retailers.

Gateway also has been looking beyond its traditional home customers and trying to attract business buyers. In February, it expanded its set of services for small and midsize businesses. Earlier this month, the company targeted that same market with a series of networking products such as access points and switches.