Protecting young users from the lawless Internet's racier fare is not something that comes with your average broadband connection. But a deal forged between BroadJump Inc. and Internet filtering provider FamilyCLICK will provide broadband network operators a way to make their connection more kid-safe right from the start.
BroadJump, which provides automated customer interface software to handle new customer service requests, has signed FamilyCLICK on as a partner in its ChannelDirect offering.
ChannelDirect allows broadband providers to market add-on services to new customers — such as firewall protection and gaming services — when users activate their connections.
One of the key reasons that attracted FamilyCLICK to the deal was the opportunity to market to the customer when they first sign up, according to Sherri Stocks, vice president of marketing.
"What is beautiful about BroadJump is it is right there at the moment of installation, which is so logical from a marketing perspective," she said. "This is really a mainstream approach for us."
Former Family Channel CEO Tim Robertson founded FamilyCLICK as an Internet service provider that offered filtering and parental controls aimed at family Internet users. But its offering has evolved into an applications service provided to ISPs.
Its server-based filtering system lets the customer set what kind of content is screened out. Unlike off-the shelf software, it doesn't place the burden of monitoring software and URL lists on the customer's hard drives.
"We really did not want to provide a service that downloaded thousands and thousands of bad URLs onto the computer. It takes up too much valuable hard-drive space," Stocks said. "And it is not as secure, because we also wanted the passwords to be stored on the server as well — it is much harder to dismantle something like that."
In addition, FamilyCLICK also provides a dynamic scanning program designed to catch new Web pages with content not suitable for younger users.
For broadband users who have set up their own home networks, FamilyCLICK's server-based system means that all devices in the house can be regulated, rather than just the main computer.
"A household can set up an internal network, and we can filter computers," Stocks said.
For BroadJump, adding FamilyCLICK to its partner list is also a good strategy move, according to Jon Green director of the Austin, Texas-based company's partner program.
BroadJump's activation software is used by a slew of cable and digital subscriber line providers, including Charter Communications Inc., Cox Communications Inc., SBC Communication Inc. and Time Warner Cable.
BroadJump sought out FamilyCLICK based on customer surveys, which indicated high interest in parental control options. While parental controls are common offerings for dialup ISPs, among broadband peers the service "is absent out there today, and their services really need beefing up," Green said. "What we do together with FamilyCLICK is really present an easy solution that is robust and allows them to answer that challenge."
FamilyCLICK's filtering services should be available on BroadJump's ChannelDirect offering by the end of the third quarter. Once FamilyCLICK is integrated on the ChannelDirect software, it will be up to BroadJump customers to decide whether to add the filtering offer to their activation platform. A key factor to that is whether the operator decides to price it at the going $49.95 per-year rate FamilyCLICK offers its direct customers or subsidize that cost to attract more families to its broadband service.
"What we'll do is we will absolutely let every customer know that the integration is available," Green said. "We will work hard to get FamilyCLICK exposure to the accounts that we have and get in there on the joint-sales mode."
"We're very flexible in terms of how we can do this from a pricing perspective, but we do feel very strongly that there is a customer expectation that things like parental controls come with your monthly service, so those are some of the discussion we are having with the providers," Stocks added. "Now, it depends on what their strategy is."
For now, ChannelDirect has the ability to present new services only to first-time customers.
Down the road, BroadJump is looking to expand that with software that notifies existing broadband customers when new services are available.
"Believe me, we hear from customers regularly that that's great and we want to do it; now tell us about those existing subscribers," Green said.