Following its failure to launch flat rate, unmetered Internet access services, AltaVista UK’s managing director (MD), Andy Mitchell, has resigned.

In the wake of his resignation, AltaVista named Stephanie Himoff as acting MD in UK.

Pierre Paperon, president of AltaVista Europe, said: "The mistakes in our planned Internet access service - which we do acknowledge - probably made Andy's departure inevitable, and we support his decision."

Search for business AltaVista UK will now focus on its core business - Internet search - according to the company.

Paperon did not disclose AltaVista's future plans for the ill-fated unmetered Internet access service, which met its downfall on August 21.

Until mid-August, AltaVista had claimed it had launched its unmetered Internet service on June 30 and was connecting some 90,000 UK customers per month. Then, on August 21, AltaVista admitted that the service wasn't actually in operation.

Apology Mitchell said at the time: "I've made all the decisions at the right time, but I should have communicated to our customer base earlier on about the condition of the service. Ninety per cent of the complaints we've had have been on lack of communication."

Mitchell blamed BT for failing to offer ISPs (Internet service providers) competitive wholesale access to the telephone local-loop.

BT's Ian Morfett, accused AltaVista of "standing reality on its head as it tries to wriggle away from the consequences of its ill-considered marketing hype".

Defence Morfett strongly denied AltaVista's allegations. He stated: "Back in February, the UK-Internet world was buzzing with innovative unmetered offers from BT, NTL, Telewest and AltaVista. Even the Prime Minister welcomed announcements from all four. BT has delivered working unmetered access for BT Internet and other leading ISPs. The cable companies have delivered offers restricted to their own ISPs. AltaVista has delivered nothing."

Matt Peacock, director of corporate communications at AOL Europe, said: "There is a danger that all of this confusion, caused in part by AltaVista's crass behaviour, will cause the UK consumer to turn away from using the Internet. But we do not blame AltaVista for hanging on to something that BT should have long ago supplied to UK consumers."