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  May 12, 2004 ISP-Planet


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Alliance Solutions

Alliance Solutions provides a complete VISP offering with nationwide coverage and a focus on helping ISPs to market their services.

by Jeff Goldman
[May 12, 2004]

Alliance Solutions was founded in 2002 as a spinoff of Quantum Communications Group, a wireless and Internet consulting firm. The wholesale dialup and VISP offering was first created in response to a request in 1997 from Cellular One, which was seeking additional products to offer to its customers.

Carrie Jones, Alliance's president, says the company developed the offering for Cellular One with the understanding that it would be resold to others as well, and it soon began doing so. In order to keep that offering separate from the consulting business, a new entity, Alliance Solutions, was created in 2002. "The product has changed and matured, but the same people have been doing it since '97," Clough says.

Alliance Solutions
(952) 885-9400

One of the key aspects of Alliance's offering, Clough says, is a sense of partnership. "We don't want to work with thousands of VISPs," he says. "We want dozens of VISPs that have thousands of subscribers. We want to partner with them and help them. I can't imagine trying to interface that way with a thousand or more VISPs."

While many providers want to be able to offer service at the lowest possible price point, Clough says that price isn't a good basis on which to stand out in the marketplace. "Not many people switch ISPs because of price," he says. "The majority of them switch because they can't stand who they're with, and then they usually expect to pay as much or more for higher quality. They don't expect to get better quality at a cheaper price."

Marketing partners
Alliance Solutions focuses on providing its ISP customers with the tools they need to acquire a solid customer base. "It's really difficult for a new ISP to get subscribers, due to the fact that they have no brand recognition," Clough says. "We put together a program with many, many marketing tools—tools that nobody else has."

The best way for new ISPs to acquire customers, Clough says, is to work in collaboration with partners like apartment complexes, wholesale buying clubs, small businesses, and fundraisers. "You can get marketing partners, then use their credibility—their brand recognition—to secure subscribers," he says. "For example, a large employer could give a special discount as a perq to all of their employees."

The offering includes a dynamic portal that can be personalized by users, as well as technical support and a full billing solution. An online interface allows the ISP to view and edit subscriber information, and to make general adjustments to the portal. The aim, Clough says, is to let the client focus on marketing and leave everything else to Alliance Solutions.

According to Clough, the offering includes over 25,000 dialup locations. "We've got over a dozen different networks that we're tied into," he says. "Our costs may be a little bit higher than somebody that crams all of their subscribers into one network, but the advantage is that if a node goes down in a community, we can switch them over to another location and not inconvenience the subscriber."

Focus on subscribers
Pricing for the service is structured per subscriber, with volume discounts for larger ISPs. Clough is quick to stress, though, that price is not the best way for any provider to differentiate themselves from competitors. "Some of our VISPs sell unlimited access for $25 a month, and in fact our larger VISPs sell at higher prices," he says.

Jim Fleming is President of AllForSchools, an ISP specifically targeted for use as a fundraiser by schools. "As a parent, I had been mobbed by every imaginable fundraiser over the years—gift wrap sales, candy sales, car washes, auctions, you name it," he says. "The problem with those fundraising tools or events is that from year to year they have spotty success."

An ISP, Fleming says, seemed like the ideal fundraising tool. "I was looking for a method to help the various schools that my kids are in, and I came across the notion of a completely outsourced ISP service that could provide a safe passage for kids to the Internet, and at the same time serve as a great tool for schools to raise money," he says.

Fleming spent eight months interviewing various providers before choosing Alliance Solutions. "They stood out from the standpoint of their emphasis on the subscriber experience," he says. "A number of companies providing this service don't seem to have the subscriber in mind in designing their services. Alliance is really subscriber-driven in terms of the features they provide."

— End