A pair of former BT executives have launched a new Internet provider designed to take on the establishment in the UK called Rebel Internet, using the kind of rhetoric we are more used to hearing on the other side of the Atlantic.

Mary Lennighan

March 15, 2023

4 Min Read
rebel internet

A pair of former BT executives have launched a new Internet provider designed to take on the establishment in the UK called Rebel Internet, using the kind of rhetoric we are more used to hearing on the other side of the Atlantic.

Rebel Internet came into being earlier this week, headed up by chief executive Tucker George, formerly Managing Director of Business Transformation at BT, and COO David Groth, who also includes the UK incumbent on his CV. But both also have telecoms experience on the other side of the pond, and it shows.

“The UK lacked a credible national provider that stood up to Big Broadband. That changed this week,” said George in a blog post accompanying the launch of the new ISP.

“The UK broadband market is broken – that’s why it’s time for a rebellion,” George said, before listing all the ways in which he believes the UK’s biggest broadband providers – including his former employer – are failing, and even exploiting, their customers.

There’s more than a hint of T-Mobile US-style communication in George’s delivery. Remember last May when the US telco began its crusade against big broadband, promising to disrupt the market with its 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) offer?

The new UK entrant is not going down the wireless route, but it has a very similar aim: to encourage consumers to switch from legacy providers to a better option, which centres on a contract-free offer with transparent pricing and no, in its own words, “malicious” price hikes. It reserves the right to increase prices in April – starting in 2024 – based on the Consumer Price Index from end-October though.

Rebel Internet leans heavily on its WiFi offer, promising “WiFi that actually works.” That’s its strap line, in fact. There are shades of BT’s unbreakable WiFi pledge in there, but we’ll gloss over it. It is making much of its slick-looking tri-band WiFi SuperPods – tech specs are here – but its WiFi offer seems to be based on Plume Home Pass, as mentioned in its terms and conditions document.

As for network connectivity, unsurprisingly it’s Openreach. Rebel Internet says it can offer service via copper or fibre, including fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), but doesn’t mention a network provider anywhere in its T&Cs. However, buried in a troubleshooting section of its Website are instructions on how to reset your Openreach box, so it’s pretty clear it’s a BT customer.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Particularly when the firm’s mission statement is all about customer satisfaction, transparency and so forth, rather than the underlying network technology.

But it jars a little when juxtaposed with the venom with which George hits out at BT in particular in another of his blog posts.

“In BT’s case, the entire focus is on short-term profits. Partly because they lack the innovation to offer compelling products, and partly because leadership knows that their business peaked decades ago. So their job is to gracefully manage inevitable decline without unnerving investors. Not what you want to hear if you’re a customer,” George writes.

Rebel Internet is not only attacking BT, but as the incumbent it naturally takes the most flack. George also namechecked TalkTalk, Virgin, Sky, Vodafone and EE in his diatribe.

“It’s not a golden rule that broadband companies are evil; this issue is quite specific to the UK, because none of these companies specialise in home Internet,” he said. Unlike Rebel, presumably.

Rebel clearly wants to be seen to be doing something different, but aside from a fancy router and a lot of buzz words, it’s difficult to tell if there’s anything truly different about this latest UK reseller; it’s not even possible to see its price plans and products without sharing your contact data with the company first.

But it will draw some attention from the way it is attacking the establishment – and their focus on short-term profits and shareholder dividends – at a time of economic difficulty.

“When a business has identified a cash cow, they only do one thing: find ways to milk them. And nobody wants to be milked,” George said.

We’ll discover when – and if – Rebel Internet shares customer numbers just how much the UK’s broadband customers object to being treated as cattle.

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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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