A row has broken out between AltaVista and BT after the internet service provider blamed the telco for the embarrassing non-appearance of its unmetered internet access service.
After weeks of speculation, AltaVista was forced to admit last night that it has been forced to put its unmetered plans on hold. The US company placed the blame firmly with BT for its "continuing delay" to provide the flat-rate circuits needed to financially sustain an unmetered service.
But BT today hit back, saying that AltaVista "appeared to be blaming everyone else but themselves". BT has said its wholesale unmetered offer has been available since the start of June, although its structure has been modified since.
A BT spokesman said: "BT leads the way with the wholesale offer, which has been agreed with [UK industry regulator] Oftel. It has been on the table since the start of June and is ready for other network operators to take up. It would appear that AltaVista has promised a service which it hasn't met and is now blaming everyone else."
AltaVista's service was due to go live by 19 June, but in an embarrassing climb down last night, the company admitted the service had never started and has now been put "on hold".
According to AltaVista, its service is reliant on the provision of flat-rate circuits from BT which the telco has "failed to make possible". It claims the business model for the service was unsustainable owing to BT's delay, and said it will be working with Oftel to help bring the cost of internet access down.
The watchdog has said that under BT's current wholesale offer, companies must either pay the cost of building their own networks to carry traffic from one of BT's switches to the local exchange, or pay a metered charge to BT for carrying that traffic. Oftel has said that BT's charge for this is a "fraction of a pence per minute".
Evan Lovener, head of distribution for AltaVista UK, told vnunet.com: "The spirit of BT's service [known as Friaco - flat rate internet access call origination] in its current form means we are unable to release a service that is economically viable. We will be speaking to Oftel and other ISPs to see how we move the UK market forward."
"We have been evaluating over the past three to four weeks whether we could continue with our service and we hold our hands up and admit we have not been communicative. Until Friaco is a completely unmetered package, the UK will continue to lag behind the rest of Europe in internet usage," Lovener added.
AltaVista said it will continue with plans to launch an unmetered package but admitted it would be "naive" to think the 270,000 customers who expressed an interest will wait with the company. It said it will look to introduce another "compelling product" to its customers, after only 1200 signed up to its AltaVista Net on Demand and FreeTime 20 services.
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