Changing Your Internet Service Provider - What you Need to Know

Thinking about switching your Internet Service Provider (ISP)? It's a move that could transform your online experience, from browsing speeds to customer service quality. Making the right choice is crucial. ISPs serve as the bridge between you and the vast digital world, ensuring your access is smooth and swift. So, let’s dive into the essentials of selecting an ISP and how they work in this discussion.

Reasons for Considering a Change

Reasons for changing your isp

Service Quality Issues

When internet service doesn't meet expectations, it's a signal to consider your options. Let's explore common concerns that prompt users to switch ISPs.

Slow Internet Speeds

Slow speeds can be a major drag, especially when they don't match up with what you were promised. Whether you're into gaming, streaming movies, or just browsing, speed matters. A mismatch between advertised and actual speeds can affect everything from how you relax to how you work from home.

Frequent Disruptions

Internet disruptions can transform an average day into a maddening maze. ISPs differ greatly in reliability, affecting satisfaction. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) sheds light on which providers excel in both reliability and customer contentment.

  • Network Congestion: Slows down your connection during peak hours.
  • Technical Failures: Can lead to complete outages, disrupting work and leisure.
  • Maintenance Activities: Necessary but inconvenient, leading to downtime.
  • Weather Conditions: Extreme weather can damage infrastructure, causing loss of service.
  • Hardware Issues: Faulty routers or modems can limit connectivity.
  • ISP-Specific Problems: Some issues are unique to the provider, affecting reliability.

Poor Customer Service

Customer support can make or break your ISP experience. Common grievances include:

  • Long Wait Times: Spending too much time on hold can be infuriating.
  • Unresolved Issues: When problems don’t get fixed, frustration mounts.
  • Lack of Expertise: Support staff without the right knowledge can't solve your issues.
  • Unhelpful Attitudes: Poor service can leave customers feeling neglected.
  • Inadequate Follow-Up: When ISPs don’t check back, problems can persist.
  • Billing Errors: Mistakes in billing can lead to disputes and dissatisfaction.

Financial Considerations

High Costs

Comparing prices is more than just looking at the monthly fee. Assess the overall value by considering the speed, data limits, and reliability of the service. Sometimes, a slightly higher cost might offer better value if it includes superior customer support, faster speeds, or more generous data allowances.

Hidden Fees

These unwelcome surprises can include equipment rental charges, installation fees, and even data overage costs. To sidestep these pitfalls, consider the following strategies:

  • Choose ISPs with no-contract options: This can avoid early termination fees (ETFs) but might come with higher upfront costs .
  • Opt for self-installation: Many ISPs charge for professional installation, but doing it yourself can save this expense .
  • Buy your equipment: Monthly rental fees for modems and routers add up. Purchasing your equipment upfront can be cheaper in the long run .
  • Keep an eye on data usage: Exceeding data caps can lead to overage charges. Knowing your usage can help avoid these fees .
  • Return leased equipment promptly: Failure to return equipment at the end of your contract can result in additional charges .
  • Avoid plans with activation fees: Some ISPs charge to activate your service. Look for options that don't have these fees .

Better Deals or Promotions Elsewhere

When evaluating promotions, consider the total cost of the service over the contract period, including any increases after introductory offers expire. Watch out for bundled services, which might seem like a good deal but could include services you don't need. An internet-only plan might ultimately offer better value based on your specific usage and needs.

Changing Needs

Upgraded Speed Requirements

The emergence of 4K streaming, an increase in the number of devices per household, and more sophisticated online gaming have significantly pushed the demand for higher bandwidth. Globally, the median internet speed saw substantial growth, with fixed broadband and mobile networks experiencing yearly increases of 31.9% and 59.5%, respectively. These trends are especially pronounced in wealthier nations, where internet speeds are rapidly accelerating to keep up with consumer demands. 

Moving to a New Location

When relocating, the availability of ISPs can vary dramatically. Certain areas might offer state-of-the-art fiber optic connections, while others might have limited access to high-speed internet. States like Connecticut, Florida, Delaware, and New Hampshire rank highest for broadband access and quality, while Alaska, West Virginia, and Montana are among the lowest

To find the best ISP for your new area, research local availability, compare plans and prices, and consider the type of internet connection you need. Websites like and and let you enter your ZIP code to find available services in your area.

Seeking Better Features or Technologies

In 2022, 5G networks provided average download speeds well above 4G, promising an even more drastic leap with the eventual rollout of 6G, which aims to further increase speeds and reduce congestion on networks. This technological evolution not only enhances our current internet usage but also opens the door to new possibilities like augmented and virtual reality, demanding even greater speeds for optimal performance.

Dissatisfaction with Policies or Company Practices

Privacy and Data Policies

ISPs have been found to collect and use extensive amounts of personal data, including browsing information, device specifications, service usage, and even real-time location data. Concerningly, some ISPs not only collect data that extends beyond what's necessary for providing internet services but also share this data across their brand's product lines for advertising purposes. This can lead to highly targeted ads based on sensitive information such as race, sexual orientation, and political affiliations. 

Additionally, the FTC reported that consumers often have limited options to restrict the use of their data, with privacy policies sometimes being obscure or hard to access.

Environmental and Social Responsibility

Many people are looking for companies that not only commit to protecting user data but also engage in sustainable practices and contribute positively to the community. Given the rising concerns over ISPs' data collection and use practices highlighted by the FTC, it becomes even more pertinent for consumers to evaluate ISPs not just on their service quality but also on their commitment to privacy, ethical practices, and social responsibility.

How to Switch Internet Providers

how to switch internet service providers

Contacting Your Current Provider

Start with a conversation with your current ISP, focusing on any concerns or issues you might have. It's common for providers to negotiate to retain customers, so discussing your situation, particularly any dissatisfaction or better deals you've found elsewhere, can lead to offers that might convince you to stay. 

If you're considering leaving due to high costs, make sure to mention any competitor deals that caught your eye. If you're near the end of your contract or experiencing service issues, these are strong points to negotiate a better deal or exit without hefty fees. Remember, being calm and prepared with your research can go a long way.

Choosing and Setting Up with a New ISP

If you decide to switch, here are the steps for signing up with a new ISP:

1. Review your contract

Before embarking on a switch to a new internet provider, it's crucial to scrutinize the terms of your current contract. While not all providers require a contract, you might have signed one for a discounted rate. For instance, many ISPs offer reduced rates for a two-year commitment. Breaking such a contract prematurely could entail an early termination fee (ETF).

ETFs vary depending on your provider and contract terms. Some impose higher fees if you cancel within the first year, while others offer prorated fees based on the remaining contract duration, ranging from $15 to $400. Additionally, don't forget to assess whether you need to return equipment like routers or modems upon cancellation. Failing to return or delaying the return of such equipment may result in additional charges.

2. Understand your internet requirements

Chances are, you’re considering a switch in internet providers for a reason. Whether it's due to a move or frustratingly slow speeds, this insight can help shape your search for a new ISP.


Find the right balance between speed and cost for your online needs. Aim for a speed that comfortably handles your daily activities without overpaying. Typically, speeds between 100–300 Mbps suit most households well.

Assess your current speed using our internet speed test for a reference in choosing a new plan.

Remember, internet speed reflects data capacity, not actual data travel time. Avoid purchasing more speed than necessary as it doesn’t quicken data travel.


Your budget plays a vital role in selecting an ISP. Prior to making the switch, assess whether there are any initial expenses associated with setting up the service.

For cost-saving measures, explore:

  • Bundles incorporating other services
  • Welcome offers upon subscription
  • Long-term contracts offering discounted rates
  • Eligibility for low-income internet programs
  • Free or affordable internet alternatives
Internet Connection Type

The final aspect to ponder when assessing your internet requirements is the type of connection you require. Here are four common connection types:

Common internet connection types

Your area's infrastructure will dictate your connection options. It's crucial to prioritize your preferences when selecting a connection type. For instance, you might want fiber internet, but your rural areas could restrict your choices.

3. Choose a new Internet Service Provider (ISP)

After identifying your requirements regarding speed, connection, cost, and accessibility, it's time to compare ISPs.

Start by checking what's accessible in your region. You might have multiple choices or just a handful. Don't overlook smaller providers—they often offer quality service at affordable rates.

Here are key inquiries to aid your comparison:

  • What kind of internet connections are available?
  • What are the installation and equipment costs?
  • Is there a data cap? Is the unlimited plan truly unlimited or subject to a cap?
  • What are the average download and upload speeds?
  • Are there overage fees?
  • Are there hidden costs like activation fees?
  • Does it offer any bundles or add-ons?
  • Do you find the contract reasonable?
  • Is it reliable?
  • What are the customer support options—24/7 phone line or just a chatbot?

As an illustration, here are prominent internet providers and what they offer in their main plans:

Internet providers and their plans

With the right information, you can confidently choose the ISP that suits you best.

Before making any decisions, it's wise to explore if your current ISP has any competitive deals.

Explore alternative plans with your current ISP.

Sometimes, boosting your current plan can enhance your internet experience. Reach out to your provider to discuss other options.

Consider bundle deals, switching to unlimited data, or opting for a longer contract for added value. Also, inquire about eligibility for programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program.

4. Reach out to your current ISP

Your provider values your business, so don't hesitate to give them a call. If you're considering canceling your plan, explaining your intentions might prompt them to offer incentives to keep you. If not, inquire about the cancellation process, including details on early termination fees, equipment return, and any other necessary steps.

5. Finalize arrangements with your new ISP

Before parting ways with your current provider, schedule the installation with your new one. Once you've signed up, they'll provide an installation date. Coordinate with your current ISP to cancel your plan accordingly.

Consider canceling on or shortly after the installation date, allowing for any unforeseen delays. Alternatively, wait until your new service is up and running before canceling the old one, ensuring uninterrupted internet access during the switch. This is also the perfect time to arrange the return of your previous ISP's rental equipment.

6. Don't forget to return any rented equipment

If you've leased equipment from your previous ISP, it's crucial to return it promptly. Failure to do so could result in hefty fees, likely running into the hundreds of dollars.

The process for returning equipment varies based on your former provider's guidelines. You might be able to drop it off at an ISP store, use a prepaid mail label provided by the ISP, or have a technician pick it up from your location.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

Potential Challenges and solutions

Dealing with Service Interruptions

Plan the activation of your new service to coincide with the deactivation of your old one. This minimizes downtime. If possible, schedule a slight overlap to ensure you're not left without the internet.

Technical Issues with New Setup

When setting up new internet service, common hurdles can include:

  1. Hardware Compatibility: Ensure smooth network setup by addressing hardware compatibility. Devices like routers, switches, modems, and cables must sync seamlessly to avoid issues like network failures or sluggish speeds. Before purchasing or installing, verify compatibility with your service provider's requirements, update firmware regularly, and utilize compatible connectors for optimal performance and reliability.
  2. Network Configuration: Smooth network setup hinges on proper configuration. This involves defining parameters like IP addresses and security protocols. Misconfiguration can lead to errors or vulnerabilities. Adhere to provider and manufacturer instructions, and leverage tools like network scanners for secure setup.
  3. Wireless Interference: Wireless networks can be hampered by interference from other devices or electromagnetic sources, leading to disruptions or weak signals. Opt for less crowded channels, position routers away from interference sources, and consider extenders if necessary to minimize disruptions and ensure a stable wireless connection.
  4. Network Security: Prioritize network security for a safe online environment. Threats like hackers and malware can jeopardize your data and privacy. Strengthen defenses with robust passwords and encryption. Install antivirus and firewall software, and keep them updated. Vigilantly monitor network activity to detect and report any anomalies promptly.
  5. Network Maintenance: Maintaining your network's health is key. Neglect can lead to performance hiccups or security vulnerabilities. Regular backups, troubleshooting, and updates keep it running smoothly. Stay vigilant for issues and adapt to evolving technologies. Prioritize network care for consistent performance and security.

Resolving Disputes with ISPs

Start by calmly detailing your issue to customer service. If the problem persists, document all interactions for reference. For unresolved disputes, escalate the matter by requesting a supervisor or manager. In cases where issues remain unresolved, consider filing a complaint with a regulatory body or seeking advice from consumer protection groups.

Final Thoughts

Switching ISPs can be a strategic move to better suit your evolving internet needs and leverage technological advancements. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your internet service ensures you stay connected efficiently, without missing out on faster speeds or better deals.


Can I keep my email address if it's provided by my current ISP?

Keeping your email address when switching ISPs might not always be possible. Some ISPs allow you to retain your email account, possibly with a fee or for a limited time. It's best to check directly with them or consider transitioning to an independent email provider for long-term stability.

How do data caps affect internet service, and do all ISPs have them?

Data caps can limit the amount of data you can use each month, affecting streaming and downloads. Not all ISPs impose them; it varies by provider and plan. Unlimited data plans or ISPs with higher caps might be more suitable if you're a heavy internet user.

What should I do if my preferred ISP doesn't service my area?

If your preferred ISP isn't available in your area, look into alternatives, including satellite, fixed wireless, and mobile broadband options. These can offer viable internet solutions where traditional broadband services are limited.

How can I ensure a new ISP will provide a consistent and stable connection?

To ensure stability and consistency with a new ISP, research customer reviews, ask neighbors about their experiences, and check if the ISP offers a trial period or satisfaction guarantee. This can help you gauge the reliability before committing.

What are the most important factors to consider for online gaming or heavy streaming?

For online gaming or heavy streaming, prioritize ISPs offering low latency, high download and upload speeds, and unlimited data. These factors are crucial for a smooth, uninterrupted online experience, ensuring games and videos stream seamlessly without lag or buffering.

InternetAdvisor Team

We are passionate about aggregating large, accurate data sets and providing it all to our users in an easy-to-use format. Simply put, shopping is easier for the consumer when he/she knows all available options. We are not beholden to any single provider and therefore are dedicated to transparency and giving you unbiased information on all providers.

Follow us on Twitter: @InternetAdvisor