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.”

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