The fall of ICUK
Having been with ICUK for several years we’ve experienced first-hand the gradual degradation of the quality of service and network performance of this ISP. Once a shining example of a British broadband provider who worked hard to stand out from the big players by providing a premium but reliable internet service, ICUK is now nothing more than an overpriced minnow.
Firstly, ICUK are a BT reseller. As a result, they cannot (or at least have been incompetent in doing so) quickly and responsively regulate the amount of bandwidth available to their subscription base. As the slow speeds in certain areas and cripplingly frequent packet loss demonstrate, the small company don’t possess enough clout to force BT’s hand to increase their bandwidth when they need it most. Prime examples of this include major sporting events. During the Olympics, for example, we could barely load webpages for a fortnight whilst ICUK support staff complained that BT hadn’t yet processed their request for more bandwidth (the request being two weeks outstanding by that stage). This leaves you and I, the paying customers, with high pings, packet loss exceeding 10% and sore fingers from typing so many frustrated emails to their support staff over the weekend.
Telephone support is only available on weekdays and ends at 17:30. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that most issues occur outside of working hours when the majority of people are actually using their internet after coming home from a hard day’s work. Even on ICUK’s more expensive ‘business’ package (as we were) the worst times for congestion were evenings and weekends; not standard ‘business’ hours – don’t fall for this scam like we did.
When you find you can only download at 150kb/s (likely due to network congestion from the aforementioned lack of bandwidth for the entire ICUK network or as a result of traffic shaping implemented to compensate the lack of bandwidth), your only means of resolution is to fire off an email to their support team which will go unanswered until the following day. By this time, tests and assessments of your service will be performed outside of peak hours and an email will follow asking for you to provide more information as they ‘cannot see a problem from their end’.
That last line will probably be one of the most common phrases you will hear from ICUK. During the Olympics fiasco mentioned above (one of many, I must add) ICUK went to the extent of sending an engineer to our house to check the BT lines (all which were of perfect working order) before finally letting slip that it might have been their chronically oversubscribed infrastructure that was causing the problem. This was quietly admitted to us in what was probably the 50th email exchange between us and four different members of their support team (most of whom are very friendly and genuinely seem to want to help, it must be said). After that point we were implicitly invited to leave ICUK by their staff and it was implied that the problems we suffered as a result of the oversubscription would be a regular occurrence. This was indeed the case.
Why ICUK? (Why indeed!?)
One therefore has to consider what the advantages of ICUK are over other resellers and ISPs.
The (limited) UK service support is arguably better than many of the biggest ISPs and the staff are for the large part friendly and with good intentions. We had only one truly poor engineer assist us and he was removed from our support case after a week of failing to progress matters (not that this ultimately expedited a resolution). That said, having better customer support than the likes of BT is far from high praise and many other smaller UK ISPs offer similar or better support to their customers (including during the hours you will actually be using the internet if you’re in gainful employment).
In terms of pricing, we found ICUK to be slightly more expensive than other similarly sized ISPs due to their tiered bandwidth pricing. This is alleviated somewhat if you choose to bundle line rental with them (as we did – not recommended as it’s more inconvenient/expensive to ultimately leave). As discussed, the quality of the internet service was frequently extremely poor and we had consistent problems throughout our time with ICUK, none of which were identified as issues with our hardware or anything our end. The premium pricing therefore no longer translates to a better quality of service, unlike it did at the time when we first joined all those years ago.
If you don’t use the internet for anything more than web browsing then one of the cheaper packages would perhaps be suited for you. If, however, you or any member of your family enjoys online gaming, streaming online television services (Netflix, etc.) or hasn’t a substantial amount of free time to endlessly chase their support staff, then ICUK is definitely not for you.
Our household have since changed to a similar small UK ISP and could not be happier with the quality of service we’ve received. Given the countless hours of frustration and time we’ve wasted with ICUK I can only make one good faith recommendation to other consumers: AVOID.