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AltaVista has denied it is misleading people over the introduction of a new time-limited flat-fee Net access package.

Writing in an email plugging the new service, Andy Mitchell, the MD of AltaVista UK and Ireland, said customers signing up to AltaVista Freetime 20 would be "automatically enrolled in the AltaVista Unmetered Access service, if they so desire".

So does this mean that punters who cough up for Freetime 20 can "automatically" be transferred to the full 24/7 Net access service and leapfrog the queue of a million people who've already pre-registered for the service?

Apparently not. According to an AltaVista PR, it simply means that these people will be "automatically" registered for the full 24/7 service (if they so desire) and "put to the back of the queue".

Which queue, you ask? Presumably, the one in which they already have a place, since the email went to people who had already pre-registered for the 24/7service and are already currently standing in line waiting their turn.

Mitchell also said that AltaVista would "continue to roll out the AltaVista Unmetered Access service to as many customers as is possible prior to public availability of flat rate Internet circuits."

However, AltaVista refuses to say how many people have been invited to use the service as part of its "managed roll out" although it does claim to be able to handle 90,000 new customers a month.

Does that mean AltaVista has more than 100,000 punters using its flat-fee unmetered service since it went live at the end of June? We haven't got the foggiest. Moreover, we've yet to hear from anyone who uses the service either.

Unfortunately, Mitchell's on holiday for the next week or so and wasn't available for comment. ®

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