With all the termination fees, installation fees, terms and conditions, and pressure from retention agents, switching Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is clearly a hassle. While we would love to give you a one-step solution, unfortunately that technology doesn’t exist yet. But we can offer you the next best thing: this handy guide will walk you through the process as painlessly as possible.

Step 1: Understand your internet needs and why you want to switch services.

Do you want faster internet? Better customer service? Lower monthly rates? No contracts? Knowing the specific reason you want to switch providers will help you avoid going through the cost and hassle of switching only to wind up in a similar (or worse) situation.

While you likely have more than one reason, you should prioritize them in order of what’s most important to you. This will help you zero in on the best internet provider available for your needs.

No matter why you’re switching providers, or even if you’re not, you should definitely know how fast your broadband internet needs to be for your household. For example, streaming Netflix requires a lot more bandwidth than browsing Facebook.

We developed a tool to help you figure out the best speed for your needs. Just click the button to get started.

How much internet speed you need button

Moving?

You may not actually need to switch internet providers just because you’re moving. Most ISPs let you transfer your service from one address to another. Always let your ISP know you’re moving regardless—if you move to an area where your current ISP doesn’t offer service, it may waive your cancellation fee.

Enter your new zip code to see internet providers in the area.

Step 2: Find the costs of canceling your current internet service.

Cancellation Fees

If you’re under contract with your current ISP, you could face a hefty fee by canceling early. Make sure you consider this before canceling, especially if saving money is your main reason for switching.

Below you’ll find a list of major ISPs that offer internet plans with contractual agreements and early cancellation fees.

ISPTypical Contract LengthNo-Contract OptionsEarly Termination Fee
AT&T1 yearYes$180.00*
Frontier2 yearsYesUp to $200.00**
Xfinity1 yearYesUp to $230.00**
ISPAT&T
Typical Contract Length1 year
No-Contract OptionsYes
Early Termination Fee$180.00*
ISPFrontier
Typical Contract Length2 years
No-Contract OptionsYes
Early Termination FeeUp to $200.00**
ISPXfinity
Typical Contract Length1 year
No-Contract OptionsYes
Early Termination FeeUp to $230.00**

*Prorated by number of months completed
**Varies by service and agreement

Some of these ISPs offer no-contract options too. Plus, the policies and amounts of the cancellation fees may have changed since the time you signed up for service. So, while you can use the chart above as a reference when choosing your next provider, it won’t tell you the specifics of your service agreement.

You’ll need to review your service agreement to know if your ISP charges early cancellation or termination fees and how high those fees might be. If you didn’t save a copy of the paperwork you signed when you set up your broadband internet service, you can usually find it online when you log into the account you set up with your ISP.

You can always call your ISP to get this information, but keep in mind if you start asking questions about cancellation, you could get routed to a retention specialist. Those conversations can turn into negotiations. We want to fully arm you with all the information you need before you enter that negotiation, so we recommend finding your service agreement information another way if possible.

Keep in mind that this chart is for internet-only packages. If you have a bundled package (any combination of internet, TV, or phone service on the same bill), you may still be under contract even if your ISP isn’t listed here. Check your service agreement for details.

Equipment Compatibility and Returns

Different ISPs use different equipment, so if you purchased your modem from your previous provider, it may not be compatible with other ISPs.

If you didn’t purchase your modem and instead rent one from your ISP, you will need to return that equipment. It can be a hassle, and you’ll have to pay shipping in some cases. Remember to include that cost when adding up how much canceling your current internet service could cost you.

Step 3: Find the other Internet Service Providers in your area.

Once you know how much getting out of your current service agreement will cost you, you need to find out what alternatives you have. We’ve made this part simple. Enter your zip code in the box below, and we’ll show you a list of the ISPs that offer service in your area.

Step 4: Pick a provider that matches your needs.

By now you should know what to avoid and how much speed you need. Here are a few more factors you may want to consider before deciding which ISP is right for you.

What should I consider when choosing broadband internet service?

Availability

You should always consider availability first because it will save you time. Finding the perfect broadband internet provider won’t do you any good to if it doesn’t offer service in your area.

But you’ve already found a list of providers in your area because you entered your zip during step three, right? No? Quick, find providers and plans in your area.

Speed
Click the button below to use our “How much speed do I need?” tool. We’ll recommend an internet speed based on how you use the internet.

How much internet speed you need button

Monthly Cost
In most cases, ISPs offer lower prices when you sign up, then increase the price after the introductory period. The specifics, like the initial price, the length of the promotional offer, and the long-term price, will all depend on the package you choose. Make sure you check the terms and conditions for these details.

Up-Front Costs
Some ISPs charge installation and setup fees; others offer free installation on certain packages. Pay attention to the fine print to know what terms the ISP offers. For more about up-front costs, check out our “How Much Should I Be Paying for High-Speed Internet?” resource.

Reliability
Figuring out how reliable an ISP is will be difficult. For some concrete numbers, you can check outage history at downdetector.com. However, just knowing the raw statistics doesn’t tell you the full story.

We asked current customers about the reliability of their current ISP service in our independent customer satisfaction survey. You can use the results to compare customer satisfaction among major Internet Service Providers based on speed, monthly bill, installation and setup, reliability, and customer service. You can also see how ISPs ranked for overall customer satisfaction.

Customer Service
Customer service can include anything from helpful sales reps to online tech support options. You can also use our customer satisfaction survey from the link above to compare customer satisfaction with each ISP’s customer service.

Bundling Options
If you want both cable TV and broadband internet services, you’ll want to know the bundling options (and associated savings) offered in your area. Bundling specifics and monthly costs will vary by provider or package.

 

Choose your next broadband internet provider.

By now you know what you want to avoid, how much switching will cost you, and roughly how much speed you need. You know which providers are available in your area, how fast they are, and how satisfied their current customers are with different aspects of their service.

Based on your research, you should have a pretty good idea of which ISP best fits your needs and whether or not it’s worth the switch.

Take note of all of that info, because the game is about to change.

Step 5: Call your current ISP.

This call is not to cancel your service. You don’t want to cancel before you activate your new service or you might end up without internet for an undetermined amount of time. However, since you now know exactly what package you expect to change to, you’re ready for that conversation with the retention expert. Sometimes what starts out as an intent to switch providers results in a better deal with your current provider.

Tell the representative you’re considering canceling your service. And feel free to tell them why.

Because you’ve done your homework and know the specifics of the internet package you plan to switch to, you can compare them to any discounts, perks, or promotional deals the retention agent offers you. This should simplify the decision between reupping with your old provider under new terms or continuing with your plan to switch.

If you decide to stay with your current provider at this point, you’re done—and hopefully you’ve got a better agreement with your Internet Service Provider. If not, don’t commit to cancellation just yet because you want to set up your new service first. Simply tell the representative you need to think about it more.

Step 6: Order your new service and schedule an installation date.

At this point, you know what you want and you’re ready to switch, so go ahead and call your new provider to order service. Be sure to schedule your installation and mark down the date.

Step 7: Cancel your old internet service.

Do not cancel your old service until your new service is installed and working properly. If you do, you could end up with a gap in your service. If you use your internet connection for business, that service gap could cost you. Once your new ISP installs and activates your new service, go ahead and cancel your old service. You can do so by calling the ISP or visiting your online account.

Click on the logo links below to find cancellation pages for some leading ISPs.

AT&T cancellation page

cable One cancellation page

CenturyLink Cancellation Page

Frontier Communications

Don’t forget to return all your equipment after you cancel.

Enjoy your new setup!

Whether you switched internet providers or just negotiated a better deal with your current ISP, you should enjoy a better internet agreement if you followed these steps. Don’t forget to relay this info to your friends if they need to switch, and keep HighSpeedInternet.com in mind for all your internet questions.