Internet providers are notorious for making it difficult to switch to another company. Horror stories of people paying huge premiums for outdated dial-up Internet services are still far too common, and even the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recognizes that switching Internet providers is much too difficult for the average consumer. Combine that overly challenging process with the growth of faster, reasonably priced Internet offerings like Google Fiber plans, and you end up with a lot of frustrated Internet users trying to change providers.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be stuck with your current Internet plan — this handy guide will walk you through the process of switching providers.

Understanding the Effects of Switching Providers

Switching Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is usually a financially beneficial move — hopefully one that also increases your Internet speed or reliability. But it’s not always possible to make a clean break. You’ll want to carefully examine all of the elements before you make the switch. Here’s a quick look at just a few factors that might influence your decision:

  • ISP-Tied Email Account Loss: An important thing to consider when switching ISPs is your email account. If your email address is tied to your ISP, there’s a high chance you’ll lose it when you switch to a new provider. As such, it’s a good idea to start up an account with a site like Google or Yahoo and then forward over any important messages and alert your current contacts of your new address before you cancel the service.
  • Hefty Termination Fees: If you decide to switch providers before your current contract is up, your ISP may charge you an early termination fee. In some cases, you may end up paying the same amount you’d owe if you hadn’t canceled at all.
  • Equipment Changes: Often the equipment that facilitates your home network — your modem and router — are owned by your ISP. If you change providers, you’ll have to return that equipment or risk incurring fees.

Fortunately, many providers offer deals to help mitigate these losses for new customers. Companies like Charter Spectrum®, for example, will pay up to $500 in buyout reimbursements to help new subscribers out of their old contracts.

Finding a New ISP

Once you’ve looked over the effects of your current ISP contract, it’s time to plan your move. First, you’ll want to find a new provider and make sure they service your home. If Google Fiber has recently come to your town, for instance, there may be a chance that the infrastructure hasn’t reached your specific neighborhood. To verify, you’ll want to visit the official website and check what’s available to your home.

When you schedule a time for your new ISP to set up the network, try to overlap your new and old services for a few days. This will ensure you aren’t left without Internet for a period of time, as technical issues and waiting for equipment to arrive or be installed can add days to the switching process.

As a general rule of thumb, the transition to a new ISP is easier when you’re also switching technologies, because it reduces the risk of a frustrating lapse between the cancellation of one service and your new Internet services being up and running. For example, moving from DSL to cable is typically easier than going from one DSL provider to another, as the different technologies involved will prevent your old and new providers from having to work with the same underlying wiring.

Canceling Your Current Contract

Ending your current agreement is arguably the hardest part of switching to a new plan, but you should be able to manage it with the proper preparation. Follow these tips to help things go as smooth as possible.

  • Write down the names and titles of all representatives you speak with. While it may seem hard to keep track of who you’re on the phone with, it’ll be helpful to be able to refer back to that information should there be issues in the future. If you’re able, you may even want to record the whole conversation.
  • Be firm about your end goal. When you call to cancel, your provider may try to extend some enticing deal offers in an attempt to stop you from leaving. Evaluate these deals fairly, but if they don’t address your concerns, be firm about your desire to cancel.
  • Politely explain your situation. Though it’s not guaranteed to yield results, explaining your current position may convince the representative to reduce or waive cancellation fees. Don’t forget to keep the conversation civilized, as the agent you’re speaking to will likely respond better to respectful dialogue than anything else.

At the end of the day, you’re the one paying for the plan, so it should meet your needs. If you’re looking to improve the cost or service of your Internet package, find and compare Internet providers in your area to make sure you get the best deal. Once you’ve found the perfect provider, follow the above advice to cancel your current contract and make the switch.

*Plans, prices, and offerings are not available in all areas and are subject to change. Consult a service provider for details before canceling or purchasing services.