AltaVista's flat-rate ISP UK fiasco ends in loss of MD

LONDON: AltaVista's recent UK suspension of a flat-rate ISP plan has claimed a high-profile casualty: UK managing director Andy Mitchell. Mitchell resigned August 30, just one week after admitting the company had failed to get the much-anticipated service running, lacking even a single active user.

LONDON: AltaVista's recent UK suspension of a flat-rate ISP plan has claimed a high-profile casualty: UK managing director Andy Mitchell. Mitchell resigned August 30, just one week after admitting the company had failed to get the much-anticipated service running, lacking even a single active user.

LONDON: AltaVista's recent UK suspension of a flat-rate ISP plan has claimed a high-profile casualty: UK managing director Andy Mitchell. Mitchell resigned August 30, just one week after admitting the company had failed to get the much-anticipated service running, lacking even a single active user.

On March 6, AltaVista announced a new unmetered ISP plan intended to dodge the per-minute charges native to British phone and Internet users.

The plan's debut earned kudos from Prime Minister Tony Blair and inspired more than 270,000 people to sign up as prospective subscribers.

Over the next four months, however, the ISP never got off the ground - despite the fact that BBC News Online was reportedly told in July that the service was up and running. Spokespeople from AltaVista's UK agency of record, Firefly Communications, denied lying to the BBC.

Regardless, the media spent the next seven weeks beating the bushes for a single live AltaVista ISP user. 'It's been the cyberspace version of the search for the Loch Ness monster,' wrote The Wall Street Journal's Stephanie Gruner.

According to several published accounts, the media was repeatedly given the run-around throughout the ordeal, with all questions deferred to Mitchell.

But Mitchell was out of the office and unreachable from the end of July through August 21, the day the company issued a statement announcing the plan had been placed on hold.

'It's true that when reporters called they were told that Andy was the only one who was authorized to release information about the plan,' admitted Firefly AE Jenny Faulkes. 'But it's not true that Andy was on holiday the whole time this was going on.'

Mitchell has taken responsibility for his PR missteps. In an open letter to media last week, he admitted being 'remiss' in not keeping customers and his own managers informed about the situation.





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