AltaVista blames BT for setbacks to unmetered access

AltaVista’s UK managing director, Andy Mitchell, has apologised to 250,000 customers after the Internet service provider (ISP) announced it is postponing its unmetered access offer.

But Mitchell also blamed BT for failing to offer an “economically viable” system that would allow national unmetered access.

He claims that the existing system, which fields customers to local exchanges, rather than larger regional “switches”, is limited and can’t cope with demand.

Mitchell slammed BT’s FRIACO (flat rate Internet access for call origination) service, which has been given the seal of approval by telecoms regulator Oftel, for being uncompetitive. He claims only BT Surftime and three other ISPs have been able to offer free access because of disputes centering on BT’s policy of offering free calls to local, rather than regional exchanges.

AltaVista now plans to offer customers existing metered packages, such as an evening and weekend offer.

Mitchell says: “I can’t make any further announcements until such a time as I can understand how BT is going to make FRIACO financially viable.

“We didn’t take money up front. But I am sure we will lose customers and I apologise to people who are upset with AltaVista. But the truth is, we are the symptom, not the cause.”

A BT spokesman says AltaVista’s claims are “nonsense” and discussions are in train to extend FRIACO to regional exchanges.

He adds: “That involves extra cost and operators have so far decided it’s not for them.”

Latest from Marketing Week

The Insight Show partners with networking forum AURA

Insight Show

The partnership with AURA, the networking forum for brand-side insight professionals, will see it host its own conference within the Insight Show. Sessions aim to bolster the influence of insight in conversations with senior marketers and to improve communication of and engagement with insight-led projects.


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here