Most of us have been there at one point or another: you’ve given your current provider multiple chances to meet your needs, and they’ve failed to do so at almost every corner. You’ve had it, and you’re ready to make the jump to a new company, so where will you go? Are there even any viable alternatives in your area?

In this post, we’ll take a look at what goes into the process of switching broadband providers, because unfortunately, it can be more complicated than you might at first believe. That being said, hopefully after reading through this guide, you’ll be better prepared and armed with the knowledge you need to make the transition a seamless one.

Before you commit to switching, consider negotiating

Guy on his cell phone with a hat.
Before you cut off service, consider negotiating for a better monthly rate.

As consumers ourselves, we know firsthand just how frustrating dealing with a provider can be. They are seemingly apathetic to your cause, no matter what you try to do, but have you really exhausted all of your options? Perhaps not; the vast majority of large broadband providers in the US have some form of retention department whose goal it is to prevent you from jumping ship at all costs.

If you aren’t 100 percent committed to leaving your current provider, this might work to your advantage. When you call to initiate your cancellation, you’ll inevitably be transferred over to this department. Make it clear you’re looking to leave, and you’ll likely be given a counter offer to stay. If you haggle effectively enough, this might translate to getting any and all of your issues fixed on top of a hefty discount on your monthly fees.[1]

If you’re set on ditching your current provider: 4 steps to making the switch

If you’ve given them enough chances and you’re simply ready for something new, the process just to get started with your search can feel overwhelming at first. From finding a new (and hopefully better) provider, to navigating all sorts of both new and old fees, it can be all-too-easy to feel discouraged, but if you’re serious about wanting to take the leap, use these four steps to keep the momentum going.

Step 1: Determine if it’s even possible for you to change providers.

Surprisingly, if you have the option of choosing between two or more different high-speed ISP’s in your area, you are one of the lucky ones; according to the FCC, only 48 percent of Americans have access to two or more providers that offer speeds above 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.[2] It’s only when you lower the bar to 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up (which factors in DSL providers) that this number jumps to 90 percent.

The easiest way to find providers in your zip code is via BroadbandNow.

Step 2: Shop around.

This is a crucial stage, as this is where you’ll be searching for the features you are looking for in your new broadband provider. Be sure to evaluate the options carefully, paying special attention to all of the charges, fees, and monthly rates associated with the package you are interested in.

Don’t just look at the price, either; consider what you want to use your service for. If you’re looking to stream HD content regularly or do any online gaming whatsoever, we’d recommend speeds of at least 40 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. Remember also, if you’re looking for TV or phone service as well, many providers bundle these together in packages that may work well for you.

Step 3: Cancel your current service

This is where things can get a bit tricky, depending on who you currently use for your service. Why? Simply put, certain providers utilize a contract instead of month-to-month service. If you’re under one of these contracts, you won’t be able to simply cancel and move on without first paying an early termination (ETF) fee.[3]

It’s not all bad news, though; many popular providers such as Charter will sometimes pay up to $500 or more for you to break these agreements, all in the name of earning your business. When you are shopping around for your new provider, be sure to call and inquire about this once you’ve got your eye on who you’d like to end up using.

Step 4: Sign up for your new provider

Once you’ve sorted out all of your ETF fees (if applicable), canceled your old service, and made arrangements to return any rented equipment, it’s time to call and sign up with the new provider!

Try and schedule the installation date to be the same date your current provider cuts off your existing service so that there’s no in-between time where you’re left without any Internet at all. Depending on a variety of factors, it may take anywhere from a few days to as much as six weeks or more to get this scheduled, so be sure to clear this up when you initially call to get your service set up.

Additional things to consider

In addition to the steps above, you should always keep a few things in mind when stepping into a new relationship with a provider. During your research phase, be sure to read around online to get a feel for the types of experiences current customers are having with your intended provider. If you look hard enough, you’re sure to find dirt on any company, no matter how fair and just they are, but overwhelmingly bad experiences and customer service horror stories might suggest that you should slow down and reconsider how bad you have it currently.

After all, you’re leaving your current broadband provider behind because of all the issues you’ve had with them, right? What good would it be to jump into an agreement with another company that could have the same, or even worse issues?

As a final note, if you have any additional services tied to your existing provider (like an email account, for instance), be sure to call ahead of time or ask about these incidentals during the cancellation process. If it turns out that your email account will be deleted if you jump ship, be sure to backup your important emails and make arrangements to get a replacement email online before this takes effect.

Have any additional questions when it comes to getting set up with a new broadband service provider? Drop them in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to help you out.

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James Webb

James Webb

James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.

Questions & Answers


My current internet provider won't be able to cancel service before the new service is set up. Can this be a problem?

Having another internet connection installed shouldn’t be a problem when setting up a new internet service. By keeping your current internet service active while you’re installing the new one, you can actually guarantee that you have internet access during the whole process of switching providers.

Can I keep my ISP-provided email address if I change to a different Internet company?

Most providers will not allow you to maintain an email address with them if you are not still a customer. Check with the tech support of your provider to confirm, it varies from ISP to ISP. Either way, consider using a reputable free email service such as Gmail instead. This way, you won’t be stuck if they decide to shut down service in the future (or if you move).

I want to change from Time Warner to Greenlight fiber optic service, but my email is included all over the place in all my accounts. Do I have to change each one individually?

Your best bet would probably be to switch to an email provider that is not associated with your internet service, such as Gmail or FastMail. For security, you should then change manually the email associated with your most important online accounts (such as bank account). You can also set up email forwarding from your old email to your new email, but only for unimportant accounts you want to save the trouble of changing the email.

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