A Mover’s Guide to Setting Up Internet Service

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Pardon the pun, but there are a lot of moving parts when you’re, well, moving. One crucial part of any successful move is setting up internet service at your new location, which will also include canceling or transferring service at your current address.

Most internet providers make it easy to transfer service when you move, but if your current provider does not serve your new address, you’ll have to take a few extra steps to switch internet providers. Even if your current provider is available at your new address, it may be worth checking whether any new ISPs are available in the area. Here’s how to go about a seamless transition of internet services from your current address to your new home, whether you’re transferring service or signing up with a new provider.

Internet service moving checklist:

  • Check to see what providers and plans are available at your new address
  • Decide whether to sign up for a new ISP or transfer your current service (if applicable)
  • Contact your current provider regarding transferring or canceling your service
  • Set up service with your new provider (if applicable)
  • Carefully pack equipment and take it to your new home if transferring service, or follow the provider’s instructions for returning it
  • Set up your existing or new equipment in a suitable location in your new home

See what ISPs are available at your new address

Before you can make the decision to transfer your internet service or sign up for a new one, you’ll need to know what your options are. There are many websites that enable you to check for local internet providers, including CNET — just click “Edit Location” on the tool above and enter your address for a view of available providers and plans.

When using these sites or tools, or checking availability on a provider’s official site, you’ll get the best results when using an address opposed to something general like “internet providers in Charlotte, North Carolina.” That’s because most providers operate in specific service areas, so availability can vary by ZIP code or even neighborhood. In fact, it’s not always safe to assume during a cross-town move that your current provider will be available at your new address, or that your new home won’t have more internet options than your current address.

What about apartments?

When moving into a new apartment, check with the leasing office to see if there is a primary internet provider for the complex. While the Federal Communications Commission is seeking to increase broadband competition in apartments, it is possible that your apartment will be wired for a specific internet service type, such as cable, fiber or even fixed wireless. In such cases, your best option will likely be to go with whatever provider serves the complex, but you may be able to seek out other options. Again, speak with your leasing office about what’s available prior to moving in.

Transfer or switch internet service

Once you’ve decided on the internet provider you want, whether that’s your current provider or a new one, and the plan that best fits your needs, it’s time to connect with the provider(s). 

Obviously, if you’re transferring service, you’ll only have to contact one provider and give them your move-out and move-in dates. Some providers, such as Verizon Fios and Xfinity, let you schedule your service transfer online, whereas others, like Spectrum, require you to call customer service.

It’s possible that your provider will charge a transfer fee. My advice would be to negotiate with your provider and see if they’ll waive the fee. This may require a call to customer service, even if you can transfer your service online, which may or may not be worth your time when you’re trying to pack. Service transfer fees are often low, in the $10 to $20 range, but then again, every dollar counts when moving.

Switching to a new internet service provider

In the case of switching providers, I’d recommend contacting your current provider first. That way you can schedule the disconnect date and get the details on any remaining payments, as well as what you need to do with your equipment, all of which are good things to know before moving day. 

Additionally, if your current provider is also available at your new address and you express interest in switching to a new provider, they may offer you a lower rate or other incentives to keep your business — perks that you may not get when simply transferring your service.

When switching to a new provider, either because your current provider isn’t available or your new address presents options for a faster ISP with cheaper plans, try to set up your new service well before your move. That way, you’ll have the best chance of scheduling your install as close to your move-in date and time as possible. Most providers allow you to sign up for service online and schedule your installation date right from your computer or phone. In some cases, you can pick a preferred window of time for the installation, too. 

If self-installation is available, and you’re comfortable with it, that may be the best way to ensure service is set up when you want it. Just keep in mind that self-installation may require going to pick up the gear or waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

Know what to do with the equipment

Your provider will handle things on the service side of your internet connection, but you’ll be responsible for the equipment.

When transferring service, or if you use your own network devices, you’ll probably be expected to pack it up and take it with you. If you still have the box the hardware came in, that’ll be your best option for storing and moving it. Otherwise, feel free to throw it in a box with other stuff, though you may want to wrap it in a towel or thin blanket to prevent damage during the move. Also, and this is important, make sure your equipment doesn’t get wet.

Switching providers will involve returning your old equipment and getting your new devices. Many providers have brick-and-mortar locations where you can return your gear but if yours does not, or if the trip and waiting in line is out of your way, mailing it back may be an option as well. 

Getting your new equipment comes down to self versus professional installation. For self install, you may have to pick your devices up at a brick-and-mortar location or receive it by mail. If it’s not out of your way, I’d recommend picking it up in person so you have it on the day of your move. Again, try to transfer the hardware in the box it came in and, above all, keep it from getting wet.

If you opt for professional installation, you can count on the tech to bring the necessary accessories and cords — one less thing to worry about when moving.

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As you’re setting up your network, try to find a central, open spot for your router that’s clear from walls and other obstructions, as well as interference from nearby electronics.


Ry Crist/CNET

Setting up your network

With a professional installation, your tech will know the best place to install your device(s) and should test your connection before leaving. There are times, however, when you may want to move your equipment after installation to get the best Wi-Fi connection throughout your home.

During self-installation or when moving your equipment after a professional installation, try to place your router in a central location in your home, as high as possible and away from large obstructions like walls or other electronics. An extra-long ethernet cable can be handy to have on hand, as that’ll make it easier to move the router to a good location that isn’t necessarily right next to the modem.

After installation, be sure to test your internet connection. If you aren’t getting the speeds you expect, try resetting or repositioning your router. Once you’ve got your equipment set up and are satisfied with your speeds, moving your internet service is complete. Now, onto those boxes labeled “kitchen.”

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