Is it Difficult to Switch Broadband Providers?

19 November 2015

For many, home broadband is an essential utility and, like water and electricity, once you pick an internet service provider (ISP) you tend to stick with them for a while.

There are dozens of reasons why you might want to switch to another ISP at some point. Perhaps you’ve found a cheaper plan or one with higher value inclusions. Maybe you’ve had a disagreement with a provider and want to take your business to a competitor.

While it might seem like a process that should be difficult, it is actually quite easy, and switching from one ISP to another is usually cheaper than setting up a whole new account. Here are the things you need to know.

1. What do you need to do?

Your input in the process should be pretty minimal. Research plans to find the best option for your household, visit the ISP’s website and perform an address check to be sure they can provide you with service, then place an order specifying that you want to switch from an existing service to this new provider.

There are a couple of hurdles you may face. Your chosen provider may not be able provide a broadband service at your home address because of its limited access at the local telephone exchange. Even if there is equipment for the ISP to use, all of the available connections (or ports) may already be taken by your neighbours.

The good news is there can be several providers who own equipment at your exchange, so if you don’t have any luck with one provider, you will probably do better with another.

2. How long does it take?

In most cases, switching occurs under a system called Churning or Rapid Transfer. As the name suggests, it doesn’t take very long to physically switch, but since the process may require a visit by a technician, you will need to join the queue for their time.

Most ISPs estimate that the entire process will take up to 10 working days. If no technician is required, it could be as quick as a day or two.

3. How much does it cost?

If both ISPs support Rapid Transfer the costs are low, but you should still expect to pay a churning fee.

For example, Internode charge $129 for a new connection, but just $39 for a churn and waives the fee entirely if you agree to a 24 month contract.

Other ISPs don't differentiate between new connections and Rapid Transfers and charge a flat setup cost.

As with everything relating to broadband, there are some technicalities which may mean you may need to pay a little more. Your new ISP will be able to tell you exactly which fees apply before you place an order.

4. Is there any downtime?

Typically there is very little downtime. When churning, your new ISP acts on your behalf and cancels your old service with your existing provider. The timing is matched up so that you shouldn’t be without the internet for long. In most cases, the downtime is only for as long as it takes the technician to physically switch your service on the day.

There are some instances where you might have a couple of days without the internet, but your new provider should be able to warn you able this downtime in advance.

5. Do you need to buy new equipment?

Technically, you shouldn’t need to buy a new modem. The settings on your old modem will need to be updated with details of your new service (username and password, etc) but it should work fine.

That said, many ISPs insist on new customers buying a new, ‘approved’ modem, and will usually bundle the price of one into the cost of an installation.

6. Can you churn from an ADSL plan to a Cable or NBN plan?

Because these services rely on entirely different technologies, this isn’t technically possible. This doesn’t mean you can’t switch services or providers, but the process will require you to disconnect your old service and connect your new service, with all of the setup costs associated with a new broadband contract.

Ready to find a new broadband plan to switch to?
Read our guide on how much broadband data you need

Modem with workers image via Shutterstock

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