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Qwest DSL to funnel free Sony games

To spur broadband sign-ups and so help stave off competition from cable rivals, the Baby Bell is bundling Sony games, music and other downloads with DSL service.

Qwest Communications International is bundling Sony games and entertainment with its digital subscriber line service in an attempt to attract new broadband customers.

The Baby Bell said Thursday that it is offering a choice of two packages, one focused on games and the other on entertainment downloads. The services come free with a subscription to MSN Broadband powered by Qwest, the digital subscriber line (DSL) service it sells in partnership with Microsoft.

"We believe that rich media content and applications will further drive broadband adoption and customer retention across the industry," Michael Arrieta, senior vice president of strategic alliances for Sony Pictures Digital Networks, said in a statement.

The Broadband Games Pack includes 30-day subscriptions to Sony's popular online PC games "EverQuest" and "PlanetSide," alongside downloadable titles such as "Jeopardy," "Wheel of Fortune" and "Charlie's Angels: Angel X."

The Broadband Entertainment Pack is geared toward music and movies. Subscribers can receive downloads from Sony Music and titles from Movielink, and get a version of Screenblast video and music production software. In addition, the bundle provides a 30-day subscription to SoapCity Download, which lets people access and watch episodes of "Days of Our Lives," "The Young and the Restless" and "As the World Turns."

Online games have become an increasingly important enticement for encouraging consumers to trade up from dial-up to a broadband connection. Xbox Live, the online service for Microsoft's Xbox game console, only works with cable and DSL Internet connections. In addition, widespread broadband connections in South Korea have created an immense audience there for online games such "Lineage."

Denver-based Qwest joins Baby Bell counterparts in trying to up the ante on its DSL service. on DSL service that take the price down to $29.95 a month. This summer, BellSouth has also toyed with limited discounts, selling access for $24.95 a month.

The recent wave of DSL discounts is part of an industrywide attempt to halt subscriber defections to cable companies, who have long dominated broadband access to the home. The need to attract DSL subscribers has become more critical because of cable companies' success in selling video, broadband and phone services to customers--a chipping away at Baby Bells' core business.

DSL providers have seen mixed results in their promotions and price cuts. SBC signed up 304,000 new customers last quarter, but Verizon and BellSouth only added 101,000 and 103,000, respectively.

CNET News.com's David Becker contributed to this report.