Switching Internet Providers
What to Know When Switching Internet Providers
Residential internet service is a competitive business. Internet technology continues to evolve and new players are always entering the market. Therefore, the best deal you could find five years ago may not be right for you today. Also, many internet providers offer limited-time reduced pricing, which can cause your bill to increase significantly after the promotional period ends. It’s worth periodically checking your options to determine whether it’s time to switch internet providers (ISPs). We will help you evaluate what you need in an internet package and explain how to switch internet providers.
Determine your internet needs
The first step in determining your internet needs is choosing which types of internet can best meet those needs. Although more speed is always fun to have, the speeds you need will depend largely on how you use the internet:
- Casual browsing and social media: Casual web browsing and social media don’t require a lot of speed. Anything up to 25 Mbps should be enough, with the higher end of the range giving you some wiggle room to stream a movie now and then.
- HD video streaming: Technically, you need about 5 Mbps for HD streaming and 25 Mbps for 4K streaming through Netflix and about twice that for YouTube. In reality, though, these services tend to buffer (preload video) at much higher speeds. If you can, go for a connection that’s at least 50 to 100 Mbps.
- Online gaming: Gaming only requires speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps, depending on game specifications, but lag can be a problem. For the smoothest gameplay, online gamers should connect at 50 to 100 Mbps or more.
- Homes with just a few devices: The above recommendations apply to one or two devices connecting simultaneously. If you have a small household, follow the suggestions above.
- Homes with many connected devices: If you have an internet-connected smart home, or your family has a lot of devices, go for a faster connection. For example, the HD streaming speeds detailed above are per device. If your family watches different movies in different parts of the house, each connection needs plenty of speed. Choose a connection that’s at least 150 to 200 Mbps.
As you might expect, different types of internet cater to different needs:
- Fiber-optic: Fiber-optic internet carries data on light signals along fibers bundled together in cables. It offers speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) for both downloading and uploading and is a popular choice for those with smart homes and those interested in future-proofing their internet connection. However, it’s not yet available in many markets as of early 2020.
- Cable: Cable internet connects to the same network as cable TV, using space on designated channels. Average cable download speeds are up to 200 Mbps, and many companies now offer speeds of 1,000 Mbps. Unlike fiber, though, upload speeds are slower than download speeds due to providers prioritizing the activities we do most online. Cable internet is widely available across the United States, except in very rural areas.
- DSL: Short for digital subscriber line, DSL internet uses the extra bandwidth on your traditional home phone line. It doesn’t take over the entire line, but service quality varies depending on how far you are from the closest access point. Download speeds of up to 100 Mbps are available in some areas, though speeds under 10 Mbps are more typical, especially in rural areas. DSL can be a very cost-effective choice, especially if you already have a landline home phone.
- Satellite: If you live in a very remote area, satellite internet may be your only option. There are only two satellite internet providers in the United States: HughesNet and Viasat. Speeds are limited (about 25 Mbps with HughesNet and 30 Mbps with Viasat) and the service is relatively pricey.
Things You Should Know if You’re Switching Providers
If cost, internet speeds, or location are causing you to seek out other internet options, remember to look into the cancellation process with your old provider before signing up with a new one. Often, internet service providers will lock you into a contract that includes early termination fees.
Check your previous provider’s website or call customer support to learn more about their cancellation process.
If you’re between a rock and a hard place and need a new provider before your move, some companies run promotions that offer buyouts from your former provider. The new provider may cover your early termination fee or other costs that come with switching to their service. Make sure to check with your new company before signing on the dotted line.
Compare providers in your area to determine if they’re right for you
Once you get a list of names, you can start to compare providers — what they offer and the deals they include. With Allconnect’s internet service provider comparisons, you can look at companies side-by-side to study different plans and how those offerings may best fit your family’s needs. This will help keep you from overpaying or choosing the wrong plan.
Reviews.com, with the help of 10 IT professionals, also compiled a list of some of the top high-speed internet service providers in 2019. This list can serve as a jumping point as you research your options.
Here are Reviews.com’s top 8 picks, as well as each provider’s strongest selling point.
- AT&T: Stellar customer service
- Verizon Fios: Unlimited data
- CenturyLink: Price-lock guarantee
- Xfinity: Highest top speeds
- Cox: Great equipment and extras
- Frontier: No-contract option
- Charter Spectrum: Contract buyout offer
- Mediacom: Convenient scheduling
You may be thinking: This is a lot of work. Don’t get overwhelmed. Start with the list of providers in your area and determine if they offer the type of internet you want.
Don’t get bogged down by jargon and don’t be afraid to ask each provider lots of questions. Most importantly, negotiate! At the end of the day, it’s your decision and the provider wants your business.
Think through money-saving options
Don’t be afraid to ask each company about mover discounts or deals for switching providers. Local providers often run promotions with different sign-on deals. Look for those deals by inputting your new address with Allconnect here.
Another money-saving option to think through? Bundling your internet with your TV. This could cut a substantial amount from your monthly bill, depending on the provider you choose. With some providers (like AT&T), you can also bundle your wireless plans with internet.
Consider reputation and customer service
You may be enticed by the best deal and lowest cost, but don’t let it rule your entire decision. You will likely have to deal with your internet provider a number of times after signing the contract. Let’s be honest, internet providers may not be numero uno on your “list of people I want to talk to.”
So, do yourself a favor and research their reputation by looking at customer reviews and the company’s American Customer Satisfaction Index ranking.
Sign only when you’re satisfied
Remember to ask questions and negotiate. If you don’t understand your contract or the terms of your internet package, talk with your provider. And work hard to get the best deal by asking for those promos and bundles. Remember: You have the power.
Plus, this will help you determine the quality of customer service.
Read the fine print
We can’t stress this enough. We know you’re tired and that the moving process comes with tons of documents that have LOTS of fine print.
Don’t get lazy now, or you’ll be sucked into a contract you don’t really want.
Put on those reading glasses. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and read. Don’t be scared of the legalese (which we know is everywhere in that contract). Make note of terms and phrases you don’t understand and ask the provider.
You can also learn how to spot hidden fees with Allconnect’s guide.
How to switch internet providers step by step
Fortunately, it’s possible to switch internet providers by taking a step-by-step approach:
Step 1: Research new providers
The first step is to learn which internet providers offer service in your area. You can use this zip code search tool to narrow down your search to providers in your neighborhood. Research available plans to determine which ones might fit your needs and budget. You might wonder, “Can I switch internet providers mid-contract?” If this is a concern for you, look for a new provider that will buy out your existing contract.
Step 2: Call your current internet provider to inquire about deals
Before you sign up with a new provider, call your existing internet provider. Companies prefer not to lose customers, so they may offer you a good deal to stay. If your current service is acceptable, it’s worth comparing the offer to those you found from other providers to see if it makes sense to stick with your existing ISP.
Step 3: Overlap your services
If you’re wondering how to switch internet providers without losing internet, the solution is to overlap your services. Don’t turn off your current service until your new service is installed and working properly. You will end up paying for a few days of both services, but it may be worth it to avoid losing your internet.
Step 4: Choose your installation
Depending on the type of internet service you choose and whether your home has existing lines, you may be able to install your new internet yourself or you may need professional installation. Your sales representative should be able to help you decide which type of installation is right for you.
Step 5: Test your new connection
If you have a professional installer come to your home, they will make sure the connection is working properly. If you install your own equipment, take the time to check out a few websites and maybe stream a TV show to make sure there are no problems with the connection.
Step 6: Return your old equipment
When your new connection is running properly, cancel your former service and return all equipment that belongs to that provider as soon as possible to avoid fees.
Frequently asked questions
Should I switch internet providers?
Only you can decide whether switching internet providers is right for you. However, with technology evolving rapidly and new companies continually entering the market, it only makes sense to review your options every year or two to see if there is a better choice. You’ll also want to consider switching if you need faster speeds or feel you’re paying for internet speeds you don’t need.
Can I switch internet providers mid-contract?
You can always switch internet providers mid-contract, but there may be a contract cancellation fee. If you are concerned about this, choose a new provider that is willing to pay off your old contract. If you can’t find one who will buy out your contract, it may still be worthwhile to switch if you’ll save money in the long term.
How can I switch internet providers without losing internet?
The best way to switch internet providers without losing internet is to overlap your services by a few days. Though you will have to pay for those days, it allows you to get your new service up and running before your previous service is disconnected.
Which type of internet should I choose?
Which type of internet to choose depends on your budget, geographic location and internet needs. Fiber-optic and cable internet are the fastest, and cable is widely available. DSL and satellite may be the only options in more rural areas. DSL is generally inexpensive, but the signal degrades the further you are from an access point. Satellite is reliable but pricey. Consider all factors when making your decision.
Bring on the savings
Unpack unbeatable deals
We can't sugarcoat it — moving can be expensive. That's why we team up with your favorite brands to help you save on everything you need (and want!) for your new home. The best part? You won't find these deals anywhere else.