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September 24, 1999
'Ultimately, carriers will have to provide bandwidth free'Bruce Elliot is executive director of the World Wide Web Institute, the largest online training institute in Asia. WWW Institute provides Internet training and consulting.
Elliot started an ISP venture in Switzerland called Internet Prolink, later acquired by US based ISP PSInet.
He met Neena Haridas for a few minutes on the last day of the IIW '99 and discussed his ideas on building a powerful ISP:
What strategy should an ISP follow to become an 'informediary'?
First of all, it should make it a part of its own corporate strategy. Second, it should have an internal person who will be responsible for implementing this strategy. Third, the ISP should develop a site that will function as an informediary. Fourth, it should take one of its business customers and do a pilot project and provide them with the information that would be needed to make the site.
I think these steps will put the ball in motion.
Why should the carrier of bandwidth be the content provider too in case of the Internet? This does not happen in the cable TV business?
Well, you have to look at it from the long-term view. Ultimately, carriers will have to provide bandwidth free of cost. Europe has already started doing this and in the next two years, India too will have this scenario. Then, how do you make money? Only by providing content. And that content can be either at the low end or premium end.
Should the ISP begin developing products along with the content company or just buy the content outright?
He must buy it outright. To develop good content requires good money. Instead of wasting energy and money on developing content, the ISP should concentrate on adding digital value to that content and sell that to its clients at a premium. And this is how he becomes an informediary.
What should be the biggest differentiator for an ISP: smooth reliable bandwidth or good content?
Let me explain this with an example. If you were to go to the theatre... A play that is really good and all... But even then the first thing you would need to enter the theatre is a ticket. Without a ticket, there is no point in having a good play.
Similarly, an ISP should first provide a smooth and reliable access and then good content. Without access what is the point in good content.
In a few years from now, will you be able to differentiate between an ISP that is helping channel content and a content company that has delivery deals with ISP?
Soon, companies will have multiple sites and that is where the difference comes. An ISP should be able to host these sites by playing the role of an informediary. ISPs will be bigger and better. And that is where they will start making money.
How close are Indian ISPs to becoming informediaries?
Not close at all. They have a long way to go. But they will come to it once the market expands and there are more users.
Should ISPs in India take an initiative to localise computing?
They should localise and provide the service for a premium. You see, this is value-added service. But so far, no ISP in the world has done it. But I am sure it will happen sometime.
How has the Indian response been to your institute?
Quite good. We have 18 franchisees in India and in the last 12 months we have had 2,000 students whom we have equipped with Internet education.
Now, they are capable of providing Web based solutions. This figure is going to double next year.
What is the criterion for becoming your franchisee?
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