How to Cancel Your Internet Service in 7 Easy Steps

So, you’ve decided to end your internet service, eh? We’ve all been through this before. Whether it’s because you’re moving to a new place or looking for a better deal, sometimes it’s just time to break up with your internet service provider (ISP).

Canceling your service isn’t always easy—but don’t worry. We’ll walk you through the process to help you navigate any potential pitfalls, like early termination fees (ETFs) or long phone calls with the customer retention department.

The most important thing is to stay calm, stand firm, and remember that there are always more internet options out there.

Ready? Let’s do this.

Look up your options

The first thing you should do is look up internet providers in your area to see what’s available for when you switch to a new provider.

Whether you’re moving or just want to pay less for internet, looking up other providers will give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend and what speeds you’ll get from a different provider. This will put you in a good position to shop around or even bargain with your current provider for a better deal.

Type in your zip code below to see what you can find in your neck o’ the woods:

Know the cost of canceling

Have you signed up for an annual contract or month-to-month plan? If you have to cancel a plan that’s sealed with a broadband contract, you may get stuck paying the dreaded early termination fees.

Depending on the provider, ETFs cost $10–$15 per month, which can add up to quite a lot depending on how many months you have left on your contract.

Here’s a look at who has ETFs and how much they’ll run you. Note that some providers have no-contract internet plans, which lets you switch internet providers without incurring ETFs.

ProviderEarly termination feeNo-contract options?Internet plans
AT&TNone*YesView AT&T Plans
Xfinity$10 per mo. left on contractYesView Xfinity Plans
CenturyLinkNoneYesView CenturyLink Plans
SpectrumNoneYesView Spectrum Plans
Cox$10 per mo. left on contractYes (add’l $10 per month)View Cox Plans
RCNNoneYesView RCN Plans
EarthLinkUp to $200NoView EarthLink Plans
MediacomUp to $120 for 1 yr. contract or $240 for 2–3 yrs.YesView Mediacom Plans
SparklightNoneYesView Sparklight Plans
SuddenlinkFull billing cycle**YesView Suddenlink Plans
OptimumFull billing cycleYesView Optimum Plans
Early termination feeNone*
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView AT&T Plans
Early termination fee$10 per mo. left on contract
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView Xfinity Plans
Early termination feeNone
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView CenturyLink Plans
Early termination feeNone
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView Spectrum Plans
Early termination fee$10 per mo. left on contract
No-contract options?Yes (add’l $10 per month)
Internet plansView Cox Plans
Early termination feeNone
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView RCN Plans
Early termination feeUp to $200
No-contract options?No
Internet plansView EarthLink Plans
Early termination feeUp to $120 for 1 yr. contract or $240 for 2–3 yrs.
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView Mediacom Plans
Early termination feeNone
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView Sparklight Plans
Early termination feeFull billing cycle**
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView Suddenlink Plans
Early termination feeFull billing cycle
No-contract options?Yes
Internet plansView Optimum Plans

Pro tip:

Worried about paying early termination fees? Ask your new provider if it can cover the cost for you. Providers like Spectrum are known to buy out old contracts when you sign up for certain plans or bundle deals.

Call customer service

You might be able to cancel your internet service online or over a live customer chat support service—but don’t count on it. It’s more likely that you’ll have to make a call to customer service.

When you have “the talk” with your ISP, you’ll do so with an expert working at the provider’s customer retention department. This person’s job is to keep you with your current provider, so come prepared and consider negotiating if you’re flexible about staying.

You’ll want to bring details about plans and prices from other providers. You’ll also want to have an idea of how much you’re currently paying for your service and what types of speeds and other features you’re getting. Depending on the internet provider, the customer retention agent may be able to do the following:

  • Offer a price match on your plan
  • Return your monthly bill to its original promotional price
  • Speed up your internet at a reduced cost
  • Give you premium channels as part of your cable TV package

Can you cancel your service if you’re behind on your bill?

You can likely cancel your service even if you still owe money for late payments or unpaid bills, but you should make sure to pay off any unpaid debts or work out a payment plan before ending things with your ISP. Otherwise, the ISP will send any unpaid bills to a collections agency, which will negatively impact your credit score.

Internet providers have been flexible about late payments and unpaid bills in recent months as more Americans have been working and studying from home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you’re having trouble covering your Wi-Fi payments, call customer service to see if they can help you work out a payment plan or other option.

For more information, take a look at our guide to internet service during COVID-19.

Remember—keep a cool head

There have been some horror stories about customer retention reps losing their temper or simply refusing to stop your service. That’s not cool, of course, but just stay calm and be nice when you’re on the phone. You could see this as a frustrating call—or you could see it as an opportunity to negotiate a better deal with your current ISP.

Pro tip:

If you want to cancel your service because your internet speed is too slow, consider upgrading instead. You could also take a do-it-yourself route. Our guide to Wi-Fi speed has plenty of tips on how to improve your internet’s performance.

Choose a plan with your new provider

Before completely cutting off your service, make sure you have a plan to switch to a new provider. (If you don’t actually want a new internet provider, feel free to skip this step.)

Call up your new ISP (or get on the chat line) and pick out the internet provider and plan that fits best for you. You can get a snapshot of service providers available in your area by typing in your zip code below:

See what kinds of deals and offers you can get, and use our speed test tool to make sure you’re getting adequate performance. If you need a professional to help you with installation, schedule an appointment for them to come by.

Basically, make sure you have everything sorted out before you cut off your internet service with your old ISP.

Call customer service again (and cancel this time)

After you’ve figured out what you want, call up your old ISP again and cancel your service—for real this time. Again, don’t be mean or aggressive to the customer retention agent. Just make it clear that you’ve made up your mind. You know the saying, “It’s not you—it’s me”? This isn’t quite the same situation, but it’s the same idea.

It’s possible that you have no choice in the matter. For example, maybe you’re moving to a new place where your old ISP doesn’t provide service. If that’s the case, then let them know. If they know you have no other option, the customer retention agent may feel less pressure to keep you connected, and the cancelation call could go smoother.

Pro tip:

As you’re switching to a new ISP, make sure you get a good deal. We have lots of cost-saving suggestions in our guide to lowering your internet bill.

Return any equipment to your provider

After canceling your service, pack up any equipment you have that you’ve rented from your old ISP—usually a modem, router, or “gateway” device that combines the two. Then put it in the mail and send it back to them. Double-check to see if your ISP will send you a return label or if you need to look up the mailing address. Also see if it can provide packaging and if you have to pay the shipping yourself.

Don’t forget this step: you can face a hefty fee if you don’t return the equipment.

Enjoy your new internet

And, finally, we’ve come to the most important step of all: bonding with your new internet connection. Once you’ve stopped service with your old ISP and successfully switched to a new internet provider, you’re now free to stream, game, tweet, and download to your heart’s content.

Type in your zip code to see if you can find internet providers in your area:

Author -

Peter Holslin has spent more than a decade writing for Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless other publications. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008. Since then, he has roved from city to city and lived overseas, mastering his craft as an editor, staff writer, and freelancer while also acquiring ninja-like skills to address feeble Wi-Fi speeds and other internet challenges.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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