The day I nearly went Cuckoo

white and gray cable

If I get a decent price and a matching service, I’m usually pretty loyal to companies – I’m not the kind of person who moves to save a couple of pounds.

And after many years, I’ve been looking to move ISP. Indeed, I nearly did but then it all went badly… except for the service I got from the ISP I planned to move to.

But let’s rewind…

I’ve been happy with my ISP for a while. As a home worker I’m pretty reliant on a fast, stable broadband connection. So, I’ve been happy to pay a bit extra for that, whilst getting good customer service too in case it does all go wrong.

However, back in February, my ISP let me down – I was looking on their site and noticed that their prices for new customers were a lot lower than I was paying. I called them and they matched it. But it left me unimpressed. I’ve also had a couple of minor outages and their response was not as good as I would have expected. Top that all off with a customer service portal that looks distinctly tired and “Web 1.0”. Now, I know that doesn’t sound a big issue but their front-end side isn’t like this – it’s all flashy and modern. In other words, they’re spending their money attracting new customers and not on the existing ones – this tallies with the pricing problem that I had.

Not long after, I heard of a new startup – Cuckoo Internet.

Wait! What’s Cuckoo?

Cuckoo is the brainchild of Alex Fitzgerald, a former Treasury official.

Alex’s dad was getting a really bad deal from BT. His mum is Indian and so was calling his grandmother a lot on the landline to India. The bills were ridiculous and, despite spending hours trying to hammer out a deal with BT, his dad couldn’t make it cheaper.

Frustrated with complex deals, including new customers getting better offers, Alex decided to do something different.

At the time, Alex was working at energy company Bulb as a consultant, helping them grow. If they could shake up the energy market, why couldn’t the same be done for broadband?

Last year, along with three other people, he started Cuckoo Internet, a broadband provider that hopes to be a breath of fresh air to the industry. Just over a year later, the first customers are being added.

Alex is on the far-left. Yes, they do look like a boy-band. Not the most inclusive group but, with just 5 people, it’s hard to be fully representative at this stage.

Alex’s plan was simple – a modern internet provider, with a simple, clear offering and a promise that that existing customers will never pay more than new customers.

As a result of all this, Cuckoo has only one package – up to 70Mbits/sec fibre with a one month rolling contract for £29.99 per month. You get a router sent to you and there is a £60 upfront cost. 

The decision was made

So, following them from quite an early stage, I quickly decided I’d switch to them when I could. I was active in their community forums and, as soon as I could switch up (just a few weeks ago), I did.

The only downside (to me, anyway) is that they provide a phone line but no additional phone services – e.g. you can’t pay extra for free evening calls. However, this was a good excuse for me to join the 21st century and ditch my landline1.

They also don’t provide a fixed IP, but after emailing them, I found they’d provide this to me for just £1 a month extra. It’s hard to argue with that as a service.

They’ve had some teething issues over packaging and some communication, but they’ve been incredibly receptive to feedback as they “find their feet”.

I got my router at the weekend, although I intend to use my own hardware (to do that, I just had to email them and they sent me back my credentials). Otherwise, the router is designed so that you can plug it in and it just works on the day of activation – you can even supply them with an SSID and WiFi password for ultimate customisation.

  1. as an aside, my wife took this opportunity to review her mobile contract, as she was the only person in the house without unlimited calls – she rang her provider and managed to get a much superior plan, with unlimited calls and 16 times as much data for just £1.50 a month more ↩︎

Bad dates

In something that will become apparant, despite how well I plan things, I sometimes seem to have an unerring knack of missing obvious things, especially when it comes to timings.

In this case, my switch-over was due the day before I was due to go on holiday. If there was any delay or any issues on the day, I’d be coming back home to an offline house (and as my security lights, camera, etc, are all IoT, that’s a problem).

I mentioned this on their forums and Alex checked and confirmed that everything was as-planned for the switch-over and re-iterated calling them if there was any problems. To be honest, I was seeing other people mentioning them switching to Cuckoo and had nothing but praise, so I was feeling good about things.

Never-the-less, I wish I’d thought that one through better beforehand.

And then…

But, you know, things go in pairs.

The weekend before the switch, I was chatting to my wife about the reasons for it, explaining what had happened back in February about the price and then…

To get the new price, I’d had to start a new contract, which I was only 6 months into it. I checked their site and, sure enough, I was locked in until February.

I called my current ISP to ask about exit costs and, well, they were vague (again, really not helping them). They told me I’d have to pay whatever it cost them for the rest of the term but wouldn’t give me any idea of how much that would be.

I called Cuckoo, and actually ended up getting through to their CEO, Alex. He went through with me what costs will be included and gave me a rough estimate – something my ISP should have done (but didn’t). If I paid it, it would take me a year at Cuckoo to make it back (it wasn’t cheap!).

So, I made the decision to cancel the move to Cuckoo – Alex didn’t attempt to talk me out of it at all and couldn’t have been more helpful. They’re going to send me a pre-paid bag out to send the router back (because if it sits in a cupboard for 6 months it may no longer “just work” when I do move over – they want to guarantee that it does) and refund me my £60 up-front charge.

Just a few hours later, I had an email from my current ISP to confirm that the transfer process had been cancelled and I would remain with them.

Alex has been campaigning about these exit costs too and has even spoken to Ofcom on the very subject – he sent me some details on how I can try and fight it, if I want. In particular, if they didn’t cover off any exit fees at the time of signing up to the new contract, then I can get out of it. Now, I don’t think they did but it was February… a lot has happened since then and, as most people will testify, thanks to a certain pandemic, it feels more like years than months since then. So, I’m not confident. I’m also honest, so don’t feel it would be right to try and suggest otherwise.

Still, my current ISP let me down again when I spoke to them about these exist fees and Cuckoo have been nothing but incredibly helpful. All that’s happened is that it’s made me more determined to switch to them… in February.

Look, do me a favour – if you’re looking for an ISP right, look at Cuckoo. They’re not the cheapest on the market but they’re still pretty good value-for-money they’re the most honest and up-front with excellent customer service. And with a 1-month contract, it’s easy to bail if they don’t deliver.

Some of the content above is taken from my Big Tech Question article “Cuckoo Internet: is this the broadband provider we’ve being waiting for?”

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