Mecer has joined with local ISP Branded Internet to launch Mecer Net, a Branded ISP (BISP) that targets Mecer dealers and end-users.Lance Terner, CEO of Branded Internet, says the BISP model enables Mecer to have its own ISP using branded internet’s infrastructure and therefore avoid the costs of setting up a new ISP.

"We are levelling the playing fields for our dealers by giving them the opportunity to compete with the major retailers," says Mecer MD Dean Barkhuizen.

"Where retailers receive rebates from other ISPs, Mecer is now offering not only an enhanced product range and an additional value-added service, but also an opportunity for Mecer dealers to obtain similar rebates," he says.

Terner says the deal empowers Mecer dealers, giving them an incentive to work closer with Mecer and gives Mecer another tool for marketing its products.

He says Branded Internet’s connection software with its automatic self-repairing diagnostics will result in significantly fewer support calls being generated by the end-user.

Branded Internet will also provide Mecer Net with a Customer Service Portal (CSP), giving customers access to an online organiser and enabling them to manage their own internet accounts, Terner says.

The CSP will also enable Mecer dealers to view live statistics on customers they have signed up, support histories and up to date internet technology articles, he adds.

Mecer Net’s initial product offering is comprised of premium 56kb analogue and 64kb isdn dial service, which include free unlimited 24-hour customer support, connection software to the Mecer Net CSP, five e-mail addresses, virus and junk mail scanning, webmail, 10mb of personal web space and a web disk to store files.

Terner says Mercer is not the only company to launch its own BISP. "Branded Internet has allowed computer stores, dealers, internet cafés and even a retail clothing chain to launch their own ISP under their name without having to pay the costs of setting up an ISP.

"Instead of having to pass customers onto other ISPs, companies can now bundle the internet with their products and keep the customers," he says.

To become a BISP, companies can register online and upload their logo, becoming a BISP within two days. Terner says companies pay a signup fee of R575 and a subscription fee of R275 a month, and can choose how much to charge customers for internet access.

"Companies can then choose their own rates for providing their customers with internet access. branded internet provides the infrastructure and takes care of all the billing at the BISP’s chosen rate.

"Debit order payments for customer internet service fees are charged at the beginning of the month and at the end of that month we process a payment to the BISP. this is made up of all of their customers’ payments less our service fees. in other words, we pay them to do business with us," he says.

While BISPs do create another player in the value chain, Terner says Branded Internet is able to keep the cost to the end-user down because of its infrastructure and high degree of automation.

"Our DNA (Digital Neural Architecture) customer management system allows BISPs to manage their customers while our Connection Manager with its built-in diagnostics checks for internet and e-mail settings and fixes them, taking the frustration element for the user out of the equation and lowering support call costs," he says.