How to Switch or Cancel Internet and Cable Service

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Last Updated: Oct 20, 2021 | Published: Dec 12, 2019

The bottom line: be prepared to spend a half hour on the phone, watch out for termination fees if you have a contract, and be sure to return any leased equipment to avoid being charged for equipment.

Whatever your reason may be, there may come a time when you need to cancel internet and cable service.

This guide covers everything you need to know in order to cancel your agreement as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Changing Internet Providers

While some people intend to forgo internet and cable service altogether, chances are that you’ll be shopping around for another provider. There are a few tips and guidelines to keep in mind to ensure you have a better experience this time around, and to find a plan that works for you.

  • Make sure you read the fine print of any agreement. Much of the frustration people experience when dealing with ISPs are miscellaneous fees or add-ons that raise the price beyond what they were expecting. Take the time to inform yourself about all monthly charges and early termination fees (or ETFs) to ensure you don’t see any surprises when you get your first bill.
  • Take the opportunity to shop around. In many cases, people will have access to multiple providers. Find all available service providers in your area, read customer reviews, and seek out a plan or bundle that checks all the boxes.
  • Check to see if your existing equipment will work with your new provider. If you happen to own your own router, for example, finding a provider that supports your device may save you monthly fees or the expense of purchasing the equipment outright.
  • Inquire about any available incentives for switching. Many providers will cover a portion of your ETFs if you switch. Providers often have deals specifically designed for customers who are switching internet providers — taking advantage of these programs could make your monthly bill even more affordable.

Cancelling Service: The Basics

Whether you switch providers or give up the internet, you will have to cancel your current plan. We dive deep into the process of canceling internet and cable service below, but the general process can be broken down into a few simple steps:

  1. Check your contract for early termination fees to ensure that you don’t get hit with any unexpected charges.
  2. Log into your account online and see if you can cancel digitally.
  3. If that’s not an option, call the helpline and ask for the cancellation department.
  4. You’ll likely be routed to a retention agent who will try to convince you to stay with last-second deals. If you’re not interested, you may need to firmly insist on cancellation.
  5. Once cancellation is confirmed, return any equipment that belongs to your ISP.

How to Cancel Cable but Keep the Internet

If you want to cancel cable but keep your internet, you need to do the following two steps:

  1. Call customer service.
  2. Request to cancel TV but keep internet service.

There’s a chance you may pay ETFs if you’re still within a contract. However, canceling cable often allows existing internet customers to get new customer deals on internet-only plans.

Early Termination Fees

When you sign a contract with an ISP, chances are that they’ve included some sort of fine print that explains the inclusion of an ETF. These fees apply when you cancel your service before the end of your contract. They could potentially cost you a significant amount of money — sometimes so much that it makes sense to keep your service active.

The ETF allows the company to collect a portion of the money that you would have paid if you had let your agreement run its course.

Unfortunately, if you’ve signed a contract that includes an ETF, you’ll likely out of luck if you cancel your service early and will end up paying a hefty fee.

In the future, if you’re unsure if you will be able to commit to a contract, it may be worth it to pay a little bit extra for a month-to-month plan.

With that said, many ISPs offer to pay your early termination fees when you switch providers. One of the most notable is Spectrum®, but there are a number of companies across the country that offer deals for switching services, and will help you bail on your current provider.

In many cases, information about these sorts of deals will be available on your prospective ISP’s website. If you’re unsure if they offer that perk, a quick call to customer service can give you the answer you need.

Negotiating Lower Rates

While there are cancellation services that help take a lot of the pain out of the process, you can cut out the middleman and take 100 percent of the savings for yourself if you’re willing to put up with a few phone calls.

Many cable and internet companies would much prefer to keep you as a customer at a lower rate than lose you completely. There’s generally a lot of wiggle room if you feel you’re paying too much monthly.

Reading up on proper negotiating tactics will also go a long way towards helping you reduce your cable and internet bill.

See our guide to negotiating with ISPs for more information.

Equipment Returns

When you finally get through the process of cancelling your internet and cable service, there are few more steps before you can finally cut ties with your ISP.

While some people buy their internet or cable equipment outright, the majority of plans add a monthly fee in order to rent their equipment. If you aren’t prompt with the return of your equipment, you could be charged a high fee for the price of the router or cable box — a piece of equipment that might not work with other providers.

Some companies offer an option to return cable and internet equipment by mail, but it could be easier to head into a physical location in order to drop things off. One advantage of heading into the store is the ability to get physical documentation that they’ve received your equipment. Cable companies aren’t always perfect at keeping track of the process, and you’ll definitely want to avoid being charged for equipment that you’ve already returned.

Cancel Online

Not every provider offers the ability to cancel service online, but for the ones that do that’s probably your best option.

Whether the cancellation process is automated or you have to speak via online chat with a representative, the whole ordeal is usually less stressful than dealing with retention over the phone.

Satisfaction Guarantee

If you’ve just recently purchased your internet or cable package and are unhappy with your service, you might be able to take advantage of a satisfaction guarantee to back out of your plan with little or no penalties.

Not every provider offers these accommodations, but it’s worth looking into if you’ve just started your service. Keep in mind that these plans sometimes have a limit of 15-30 days after you first sign up, so make sure you take action sooner rather than later if you’d like to pursue other options.

Cancellation Resources

For further information on cancelling service and finding a plan that works for you, take a look at the resources included below.