Most households currently rely on the internet for everything from work and school to entertainment and connecting with others. Having a reliable, high-speed internet connection is now considered an essential utility by many.
But what do you do when your current internet service just isn‘t cutting it anymore? Perhaps you‘ve moved and your old provider doesn‘t service your new neighborhood. Or maybe your family has grown and you need a faster connection with more bandwidth to accommodate more devices. There are many reasons you may be considering making the switch to a new internet service provider (ISP).
According to 2021 survey data from HighSpeedInternet.com, the top three reasons people gave for switching internet providers were cost (36%), poor customer service (32%), and slow speeds (27%). Additional factors like frequent outages, data caps, limited availability, and moving homes also prompt people to shop around for a new ISP.
While it can feel like a hassle, taking the time to research ISPs and properly switch providers can pay off in the long run through upgraded internet performance. This comprehensive guide lays out exactly how to switch in five key steps.
Step 1: Review Your Current Contract
Before comparing new ISP plans, it‘s critical that you thoroughly read through the contract you initially signed with your current provider. This will ensure there are no surprise penalties or fees when you go to cancel the service.
Some important things to look for:
- Length of contract – Note when the contract term began and when it is set to expire. This will tell you if you‘re still under contract or free to cancel anytime. As of 2022, the average internet customer stays with their provider for 2-3 years, often signing 12 or 24 month contracts .
- Early termination fee – Most providers charge fees from $100 to $400 if you cancel service before your contract term is up. Understand what this penalty would be.
- Data caps – Review if you committed to any set data usage limits. Exceeding caps often incurs overage charges.
- Bundles/promotions – See if you‘re required to keep TV, phone, etc. bundled to maintain promotional pricing.
- Equipment fees – Confirm if you‘ll need to return any rented modems or routers and related return shipment costs.
Having the details of your current internet agreement will empower you to make the best decision of whether it makes sense to pay any early termination penalties or instead wait out the remainder of your contract term before switching.
Step 2: Determine Your Internet Connection Needs
Next, reflect on what type of internet connection would best suit your household‘s needs. Outline the speed, data usage, connection type, and monthly budget required.
- What activities do we use the internet for? Basic web browsing or data-intensive video streaming?
- How many people are frequently online at once? More users means more bandwidth needed.
- Do I need blazing fast speeds for online gaming or work video calls?
- What internet connection is available in my area? Connection type impacts speed potential.
- How much can I afford to spend each month for internet access?
Having a clear outline of your needs and wants will make comparing new ISPs and plans much easier.
Ideal Internet Speeds
One major factor to consider is the download and upload speeds you require, measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). The more data that can travel in a second, the faster pages and content load.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the standard internet speed for basic web browsing and email is 3-8 Mbps . For streaming HD video, you‘ll want at least 25 Mbps. Multiple users or devices require faster speeds.
Compare your current Mbps to speed requirements to determine if your plan is underdelivering. Run a speed test to check current performance.
Data Usage Needs
Many providers place caps on monthly data usage, after which you pay overage fees. Determine if your household needs unlimited data or can work within a capped amount.
Light internet users may be fine with caps of 250-1024 GB per month. Heavy usage from video streaming, gaming, or a smart home can require unlimited data to avoid constant overages.
Review a few recent internet bills to analyze your average monthly usage and decide what cap is needed.
The type of internet infrastructure available impacts speeds and reliability. Main options are:
- DSL – Uses existing telephone lines with slower speeds but consistent performance.
- Cable – Widely available with fast speeds but performance slows during peak congestion.
- Fiber – Offers ultra-fast gigabit speeds with very reliable connections but is not yet widely available.
- Fixed wireless – Uses radio towers to broadcast signal to a fixed antenna on your home. Speeds fast but reliability varies.
- Satellite – Available virtually anywhere but latency causes lag, making it a poor choice for real-time usage like video chatting and competitive online gaming.
Check which connections are available in your area as options will be limited. Fiber and cable offer the best performance for most users currently. Availability of each type of internet breaks down as follows :
- 58% of Americans have access to cable internet
- 52% have access to fiber
- 45% have access to DSL
- 30% have access to fixed wireless
Set a Budget
Finally, establish a target budget for monthly internet service. While you may want blazing fast speeds and unlimited data, balance performance desires against what you can realistically afford to pay each month.
Compare all costs too – monthly service fees, equipment rentals, activation charges, data overage fees, early termination penalties, and more. Watch for teaser rates that skyrocket after the first year.
Seeking ways to save like bundling services or signing a long-term contract can help you afford faster speeds while staying within your budget.
Doing your homework on ideal connection needs makes picking the right new ISP much simpler.
Step 3: Research New Internet Provider Options
Armed with what you‘re looking for in a new internet service plan, now comes the fun part – seeing what‘s available!
Start by searching for providers in your area. Many addresses only have access to one or two ISPs while others may have over a dozen options. Don‘t forget to look at national providers, local companies, and even municipal broadband.
Use speed comparison tools like Speedtest and internet provider comparison sites like AllConnect and BroadbandNow to analyze your options.
Key factors to compare across plans:
- Availability – Which providers service your address?
- Speed – Compare download/upload Mbps across plans to your ideal speeds.
- Data caps – Seek unlimited data or caps high enough to avoid overages.
- Price – Look at monthly fees, activation charges, equipment rentals/purchases, taxes, and overages.
- Reliability – Research company reputation, average uptime, and outage frequency.
- Customer service – Check for satisfactory support options like 24/7 phone and chat.
- Contract terms – Analyze impacts of long contracts, price changes after year one, early termination policy.
- Performance – Read consumer reviews and testimonials about real-world speeds and reliability.
Additionally, consider unique features like smart home tech integration, network security, availability in your area, free streaming services, etc.
For example, here is a comparison of some top national internet providers and median plan features:
|Provider||Starting Price||Avg Speed Range||Data Caps||Contract Length||Connection Type|
|Xfinity||$20-40||50-1200 Mbps||1.2 TB||1-2 years||Cable|
|AT&T||$35-60||50-1000 Mbps||None||1-3 years||Fiber/DSL|
|Verizon Fios||$40-80||300-940 Mbps||None||2 years||Fiber|
|Cox||$20-100||50-1000 Mbps||1 TB||1 year||Cable|
Clearly outline the standout provider for your situation based on speed, data, price, and contract requirements.
Consider Offers From Your Current Provider
Before switching companies, call your current ISP‘s customer retention department. Let them know you‘re considering cancelling service for a competitor‘s offer. They may make deals like:
- Offering a discounted rate if you sign a new contract
- Increasing your internet speed at no added cost
- Bumping up or removing your data cap
- Waiving early termination fees
- Adding in additional service bundles
As the average customer tenure is just 2-3 years, ISPs are motivated to keep subscribers from switching away . Discussing what deals they can offer makes switching providers less tempting.
Step 4: Sign Up For New Internet Service
Once you‘ve weighed all options and selected your new ISP provider, it‘s time to sign up for service.
When you call or go online to place your order, have these items on hand:
- The name of the plan you want to order
- Account number from your current provider if transferring service
- Your social security number, date of birth, and contact information
- Credit card for paying deposits or first month charges
Key details to discuss with the new provider:
- Installation date – Book the soonest available time. You‘ll want to schedule 1-2 days after you cancel old service to prevent an internet gap.
- Equipment – Clarify what you need to provide (like a router) vs rent from them.
- Account access – Set up your online login credentials to manage your new account.
- Bill payment – Set up autopay from your bank account to avoid late fees.
- Additional services – Opt into bundling TV, home phone, etc if desired.
- Installation timeline – Get start and end time for setup and confirm you‘ll be home to grant tech access.
Once service is scheduled, you‘ll be ready to switch over on install day.
Step 5: Cancel Your Current Internet Service
Now that you know your new service activation date, you can move forward cancelling existing internet.
It‘s recommended you schedule cancellation for 1-2 days after your new provider begins service. This prevents any gap where you are without internet access completely.
When you call to cancel service, here are key things to cover:
- Cancellation date – Give 1-2 days after new service starts. Schedule a specific date rather than "end of service" to prevent billing errors.
- Early termination fee – Ask if this will be waived fully or partially. Be ready to pay any remaining amount due.
- Equipment return – Get instructions for returning any rented routers, cables, modems to avoid fees.
- Final bill – Ask date of final bill and for refund of any prepaid unused service.
- Account number – Note down to provide to new company for easy transfer.
- New resident setup – Share that the new resident needs to contact them for service. Provide customer service phone number.
Getting cancelation details in writing provides helpful records. Send email or mail cancellation notice if required by your provider.
And with that, you‘re ready to switch internet providers! Follow this process for a smooth transition to faster, more reliable internet.
Frequently Asked Questions About Switching Internet Providers
Concerns about changing internet service providers are common. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How long does it take to switch internet providers?
The full process takes around 5-14 days in most cases. This includes comparing providers, ordering new service, installation, and finally cancelling old service. Schedule installation 1-2 days after cancelling your existing internet to prevent any disruptions.
What are the steps to change internet providers?
Major steps are:
- Review your current contract
- Research new ISP options and plans
- Sign up for service with a new provider
- Schedule installation
- Cancel your old internet service on the installation date
What should I do before switching internet providers?
Before switching, know your current contract terms, fees for early cancellation, equipment return policies, and your ideal internet speeds, data, and features you want. This makes comparing plans straightforward.
Do I need to cancel internet before getting a new provider?
It‘s recommended you schedule cancelling your current internet 1-2 days after your new service installation date. This prevents being without internet at any point during the transition.
Will switching internet providers affect my email?
If you have an email address provided by your ISP, switching may require you to migrate your messages to a new address. Third-party email through providers like Gmail stays the same.
Can I transfer my phone number to my new internet provider?
Yes, if your current ISP offers home phone service. Request to port your number over to the new provider when signing up to keep the same number.
How do I know if I can switch providers?
Start by searching for available providers in your area. If you are under contract with penalties for cancelling, you‘ll have to weigh costs. If no contract, you are free to switch at any time.
The Bottom Line
As an essential utility for most households, having reliable, fast internet service is a priority. If your current provider is no longer meeting your needs, carefully switching to a new ISP is worth the effort for improved performance and value. Follow these steps for a smooth transition:
- Review your current contract
- Determine your ideal internet speeds, data, and budget
- Research new provider options in your area
- Sign up for service with the best provider
- Cancel your current internet on the installation date
Patience and planning ensures you retain internet access throughout the switch process. In just over a week, you can be connected with an ISP tailored to your household‘s needs. Enjoy your upgraded internet!