Making the switch: What you need to know about changing internet providers

Alex Sheehan
AS
Alex Sheehan
May 24, 2019

Consumers are growing increasingly displeased with internet providers. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), internet service providers, in particular, have hit an all-time low for their 2018 ratings, marking a 3% decrease from 2017.

If you get to a point where it’s unbearable, then it could be time to pull the plug and turn on service with a new ISP. That said, a DecisionData study said 70% of consumers who switched ISPs actually ended up regretting it.

But there are more reasons to consider switching your ISP than just customer dissatisfaction. Below, we’ll discuss other advantages of switching internet providers (hint: $ savings!) and how to do it.

Why switch your service

One top consideration for switching ISPs is cost savings. And if this is you, you’re not alone. The same DecisionData survey found that this is the motivation for more than half of consumers who’ve switched: It seems like most people are looking for cheap internet. Some respondents said that they regularly switch providers to take advantage of introductory offers and other promotions.

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 face consequences if you terminate early.

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

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:

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.

Generally speaking, ISPs charge the following ETFs:

Internet providerEarly Termination FeeAdditional information
AT&TUp to $180There are different fees for different contracts
CenturyLinkUp to $200; $0 for month-to-month agreementsN/A
CoxUp to $360There are different fees for different contracts
FrontierUp to $240; $0 for month-to-month agreementsN/A
Google FiberUp to $300Google Fiber refers to its ETF as a “construction fee”
HughesNetUp to $400May also charge up to $300 for unreturned rented equipment
Mediacom$0No contracts
Optimum$0 since most plans are month-to-month; however, if you did enter into an agreement for promotional purposes, you may have to pay a feeOptimum does not allow for prorated services; if you cancel January 1 but your service period is Dec 15–Jan 15, you’ll have to pay for the whole month of January
Spectrum$0No contracts
SuddenlinkUp to $200N/A
Verizon Fios$350 minus $15/mo. for every month in your contract that has passed; $0 for month-to-month agreementsN/A
Windstream$0No contracts
Xfinity$110 minus $10/mo. for every month in your contract that has passed (one-year agreements); $230 minus $10/mo. (two-year agreements); $0 for month-to-month agreementsLog in to your account to find your specific ETF terms in your contract

If you’ve rented a router, modem or any other equipment from your provider, you’ll also have to return it as part of the cancellation process. If you don’t return it in a timely manner, or the equipment is damaged, then you may have to pay additional fees.

There are a couple of ways to get out of paying your ETFs. Some ISPs have a 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. Some ISPs will also buy you out of your contract and 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:

Use a cancellation service

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

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 which you can vet depending on your needs.

All you have to do is 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. According to the FCC, approximately one-third of Americans don’t have access to download speeds of more than 25 Mbps. 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 ACSI’s rankings. We’ve also put together a list of the highest- and lowest-rated ISPs in 2019.

Read the fine print

If you haven’t noticed by now, 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 — most will charge some sort of installation or setup fee. If you successfully negotiate it, ensure the quality service guarantee is included, and look for any other red flags like service add-ons or data limits.

One other big 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.

Switch internet: signing a new contract

Perhaps the biggest tip anyone can give you about signing a new internet service contract is to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!

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.

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.

Ask about buy-out options or other incentives 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.

Also, ask about bundling options and how that might save you money. Be mindful that these might require specific contract terms or other red flags we warned you about above.

Remember: Be polite but firm. And if it doesn’t work with the first representative you speak with, don’t be afraid to try again. Sometimes it’s just a matter of catching the right person at the right moment.

Don’t feel like negotiating yourself? Recruit BillFixers, Truebill or Trim for help.

For more on lowering your internet costs, check out these five tips for getting cheaper internet service.

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.

Conclusion

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!

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