How to switch internet providers and save money

Joe Supan

Apr 16, 2021 — 6 min read

Switching internet service might seem like a hassle, but you can usually lower your monthly bill significantly in the process.

If you are growing increasingly displeased with your internet provider, then it could be time to pull the plug and turn on service with a new internet service provider (ISP). Whatever your reason, we’ll discuss the advantages of switching ISPs and how to do it.

What you should consider when switching internet providers

One top consideration for switching ISPs is cost savings. A DecisionData study found that this is the motivation for more than half of consumers who’ve switched, with most people looking for cheap internet. Some respondents said they regularly switch providers to take advantage of introductory offers, no contracts and other promotions. However, that same DecisionData survey said 70% of consumers who switched ISPs actually ended up regretting it, so consider your choices carefully.

Other reasons to switch?

  • Improve internet connections: The No. 2 reason for switching, 22% of respondents said they switched because they wanted an upgrade in their internet speeds.
  • Seek better customer service: Another 16% of respondents switched after having a poor experience with their current provider in hopes of finding a company that has a more helpful and responsive support team.
  • Service availability: ISPs enter new markets and geographic locations all the time. Less common, some ISPs may also exit a location and no longer be able to provide service.

How to cancel your existing service

Before you sign up with a new provider, you’ll want to look into the cancellation process for your situation. Often, ISPs will lock you into a two-year contract and you’ll have to pay fees if you terminate early.

To find out the cancellation process for your ISP, check their website or give their customer support line a call. Here are some resources to help you get started:

Pro tip: Some ISPs offer an option to temporarily stop or suspend service and pick it back up at the end of the specified time period.

Determine associated cancellation fees

If you’ve signed a contract and you want to cancel service before the end of that agreement, you might have to pay what’s called an Early Termination Fee (ETF). The ETF varies depending on your ISP and your contract terms. The table below shows the current ETFs for several top providers. And, don’t forget military members may be able to avoid ETFs in some circumstances. 

Early Termination Fees for top internet service providers

Things to remember when cancelling service:

  • If you’ve rented a router, modem or any other equipment from your provider, you’ll have to return it as part of the cancellation process. 
  • If you return the equipment late, or the equipment is damaged, you may incur additional fees.
  • Some ISPs, such as Cox or WOW!, have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If you’re canceling because you’re dissatisfied with service and can point to something in your contract that backs up your claim, this could be your way out. 
  • When switching to your new service, see if they have a buyout offer. Some ISPs, such as Spectrum, will cover any ETFs in an attempt to win over your business.

Will your new internet provider buy out your contract?

ISPs often run introductory promos that offer a buyout from your current/former provider — though this isn’t always the case. These plans may cover your ETF or other associated charges with making the switch.

The following ISPs offer some sort of buyout plan:

Before you switch: Find and compare

Before you cancel your current service, investigate the other options in your area to make sure you can switch in a timely manner and get the improvements you are looking for, whether that be a lower price, faster speed or better reliability.

How to find internet providers near you

There are 7,000 internet service providers in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean you have 7,000 options. ISPs are present in specific geographic locations; they’re not always fully available nationwide.

To find internet providers in your area, you can conduct a search on Allconnect®. This is a great starting point because you can start to build a list of potential ISPs that you can vet depending on your needs. Just enter your ZIP Code, and we’ll show you internet and bundle options for your home.

Comparing internet providers

When comparing internet providers, one thing you’ll need to confirm is upload/download speeds. First, determine the internet speed you need and then confirm speeds upfront (and get a guarantee when negotiating if possible).

Beyond internet speed, there are some other key considerations:

  • Reputation and customer service — ISPs aren’t exactly consumers’ favorite types of companies to do business with. This is why it’s important to do your due diligence. Consider customer reviews and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) rankings for 2020
  • Read the fine print — ISPs sneak a lot of legalese in their contractual agreements. And while it’s tempting to skip over it, you’ll want to pay closer attention before you sign. Learn how to find hidden fees and see if you can negotiate to get those waived. Look for any other red flags like service add-ons or data limits.
  • Watch out for introductory offers —Another thing to look out for is when you sign up with an introductory offer: Make sure that promo is applied to your entire service agreement and not just your first monthly bill.
  • Ensure equipment compatibility — If you own your internet equipment, make sure it’s compatible with the ISPs you’re considering. If you’re set on an incompatible provider, this may require expenses to purchase or rent additional equipment.

How to sign a new contract

Perhaps the biggest tip anyone can give you about signing a new internet service contract is to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! Here’s some tips to make the process easier:

  • You have the power — When it comes to negotiating your new contract, you have the most power before you’ve signed anything. After you’ve signed, you’re locked in and you have significantly less bargaining power.
  • Do your research — Start by doing your research about all your options and promotions, for both the ISP in consideration and their competitors in your area. Once you’ve gathered your intel, it helps to talk to a human, whether it’s at a brick-and-mortar location or on the phone, to increase your chances at success.
  • Look for incentives — Ask about buy-out options or other promotions they’re offering for customers who are switching. Even if they don’t have an official one listed above or on their website, a representative might be able to help you out.
  • Check out bundles — Ask about how bundling options might save you money. Be mindful that these might require specific contract terms we warned you about above.

Don’t feel like negotiating yourself?

There are tools out there that can negotiate lower bills and even cancel your internet service for you.

When determining your cancellation date with your former provider and your service start date with your new one, allow yourself some overlap (or at least have a backup plan if you’re without internet for a few days). You might want to get your cancellation scheduled before confirming your installation date, as many ISPs require some sort of advance notice for termination.

How Allconnect can help

If you’re feeling intimidated, don’t be. We can help you search for and find providers in your area. In addition, you can speak with one of our internet experts to learn more about each provider, find out special rates and promotions, sign up for new service and schedule your installation — all on one call. We work with dozens of providers so that you don’t have to!

Joe Supan

Written by:

Joe Supan

Principal Writer, Broadband Content

Joe is a senior writer for CNET covering home technology and broadband. Prior to joining CNET, Joe led MYMOVE’s moving coverage and reported on broadband policy, the digital divide, and privacy issues for the br… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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