Campaigns: Weekly Web Watch - Not so free to access all areas

Organisation: AltaVista

Organisation: AltaVista



Issue: Unmetered internet access



At: www.altavista.com





The battle for internet users reached new heights earlier this year with

a flurry of announcements from ISPs, each trying to outdo the other,

offering unmetered internet access.



American company AltaVista describes itself as ’the premier knowledge

resource on the internet’. It announced a flat rate unmetered service in

March. But on 22 August news broke that AltaVista had never delivered

this service and had now decided to pull the offering.



Anyone visiting AltaVista’s web site early on 22 August would still have

been able to sign up for unmetered access, a fact that was widely

reported in the media. An AltaVista spokesperson admits: ’This was a

mistake by AltaVista. By 6.30 or 7am the offer had been removed’.



By 23 August finding any coverage on the web site on the story proved

difficult. The multi-functional site offers a wealth of options on its

busy home page including web search facilities; news, sport, and

business channels; and resources such as a translation service.



The story was not listed among the main news headlines. To deliver

content, AltaVista works with partners, including the Independent and

Reuters.



A search of the Independent revealed nothing under News or Business

News, but under Digital News the second story listed was ’AltaVista

under attack for pulling free access offer’. Here technology editor

Charles Arthur quotes AltaVista managing director Andy Mitchell,

admitting he had been ’absolutely remiss’ in not announcing the company

had decided some time ago not to launch the service.



Surprisingly a search of the Press Room on the site found no mention of

the story. An AltaVista spokesperson said that a press release dated 21

August announcing the company’s decision to put unmetered access ’on

hold’ was emailed to the media and also posted to the Press Room.



A shortened version of the statement was posted on the Internet Access

section of the site, so anyone visiting would have discovered that the

service was no longer available. ’The most important thing was to let

customers and users know,’ said the spokesperson.



Unsurprisingly the statement blamed factors beyond the company’s

control.



’AltaVista is disappointed that the current state of the UK telecoms

market has not enabled the company to deliver an unmetered service

within the timescales originally planned,’ it states. But it continues:

’We still have plans to launch this service when it is possible to do

so, and will continue to campaign for cheaper internet access in the

UK.’



Users will have to make up their own mind whether AltaVista acted

responsibly in announcing unmetered access in March, before it was able

to deliver it. The more cynical may feel its web site should keep them

better informed.



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