How to switch internet providers

Switching internet providers may seem like a more difficult task than it is. Here's 4 simple steps to follow.

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Sometimes your current internet connection doesn’t quite cut it and you want to switch to a new service provider. You might be looking to change from HFC (Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial) to Fiber TTN if it’s finally been rolled out in your area and you want to check it out. Maybe you already have Fiber TTN but your service is super expensive and you want to look for alternatives.

Whatever the reason, swapping from one internet service provider to another isn’t nearly as big a deal as it seems, given the competitive nature of the market.

Understanding internet technologies in Canada

Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial (HFC) delivers internet through a combination of optical fiber and coaxial cable. It’s most widely used and it’s a step-up from old fashioned cable internet. It’s pretty fast and reliable.

Cable internet is the predecessor of HFC. It uses the same coaxial cable network as your cable TV to deliver internet. Because of that, it can be slower, easily interrupted and you can experience congestion at peak times.

Fiber to the node (TTN) uses a network box and fiber optics to deliver internet to your home. It’s very fast and very reliable. Unfortunately, it isn’t widely available across the country yet.

Before you leave your internet provider

Before you completely sever ties with your current provider, here are some things to watch out for:

    • Ongoing contracts. If you’re on a long-term contract, there may be fees for breaking the contract ahead of time.
    • Early exit fees. Even if you’re not on a contract, some providers will still charge you for leaving before a certain amount of time.
    • Check supported speeds. Not all internet providers support all speed tiers. Make sure the set-up at your house allows for that new high-speed connection you’ve just purchased.

How to switch providers

Here’s how to the start the process:

Step #1: Compare plans and providers

This is probably the hardest part of the entire process: figuring out what internet plan you want. You’ll have to pick a provider, choose a speed tier that suits you and settle on a single plan.

Step #2: Give your internet provider notice

While your new provider will handle the actual service switch, remember to

Give your current provider up to 30 days or so of notice.

This will help ensure the transition is as smooth as possible. Contacting them will also let you make sure that you’ve settled all outstanding accounts, bills or contracts, allowing for a clean break.

Step #3: Get ready for service transfer between providers

When switching, you don’t need to worry about the actual internet handover itself. However, if you have an email address with the old provider you should transfer all your data over to a service like Gmail or Microsoft Outlook.

In addition, if you have a phone number and you’d like to keep it, inform your new provider before your old service is cut off to make sure you don’t lose it.

Step #4: Check your hardware

For the most part, if you’re switching between two similar connections, you shouldn’t need a new modem. Modems are rarely provider-specific and should work equally well regardless of which provider you’re with. Still, run your modem past your provider to see if there might be any issues. Some providers may want to use their own hardware.

One major exception to this is if you’re switching to a higher speed tier, you may well get better connection speeds with a modem capable of faster signal processing.

Switching from HFC or cable to Fiber TTN

It’s a little trickier switching to Fiber TTN from an existing HFC or cable connection because of the change in connection technologies, but not much trickier. Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Check whether Fiber TTN is available in your area

If you’re on HFC, chances are you may have seen advertisements about Fiber TTN and when to expect it in your area. Make sure you know for sure it’s being offered because it’s still limited across Canada.

Step 2: Decide whether you want to switch internet providers

If you’re happy with your current provider then don’t worry about anything. But if you’re considering a change, think about the needs of your household. Things like:

  • How many people will be connecting to the internet regularly? This will determine how much bandwidth you need.
  • Any gamers in the house? You’ll likely need high download speeds. Take our internet speed test here.
  • Binge watchers or talkers? You’ll want to consider meeting the needs for streaming and video calls.

Step 3: Choose and buy your internet plan

Your new provider will let you know what’s involved with the switch and handle all the technical parts for you.

Step 4: Arrange installation

The provider your plan is with may send a technician to finalize your internet connection. After this, hook up your new modem (your provider will recommend one with your plan unless you want to buy it separately) and you’re good to go!

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to give my current provider notice before switching?

It’s best to give you current provider a bit of a heads-up before you switch to a new provider. Unlike switching mobile phone plans, not all internet providers will automatically switch you over to a new service. We recommend giving about a month or so of notice, just so you can settle any outstanding amounts or issues before moving on.

How long should it take to get connected to my new provider?

You’ll usually find it takes only a couple days to a week for your new provider to process your application and make the change. This timeframe can also be dependent on whether you’re waiting for a new modem to arrive in the mail. In most cases, if you can use your existing modem, the actual switch itself will take less than an hour. That means you’ll have your connection back up and running with minimal downtime.

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