Setting Up Internet in a New Place? Here's All You Need to Know
There's a lot that goes into moving, including setting up your internet connection. Here's how to do it, whether transferring or switching providers.
David AndersSenior Writer
David Anders is a senior writer for CNET covering broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining CNET, David built his industry expertise writing for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. In his 5 plus years covering broadband, David's work has been referenced by a variety of sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. David is from and currently resides in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
ExpertiseBroadband providers, Home internet, Security Cameras
While it's not as physically demanding as lifting and loading boxes, transferring or setting up new services like home internet at your new address can be a pain just the same. Here's how to make it as painless as possible.
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 good spot in your new home.
Which internet providers serve my new address?
Before you can decide to transfer your internet service or sign up for a new one, you'll need to know your options. Many websites enable you to check for local internet providers, including CNET -- just click "Edit Location" on the tool above and enter your address to view 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." Most providers operate in specific service areas, so availability can vary by ZIP code or even neighborhood. During a cross-town move, it's not always safe to assume 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.
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 providers.
Obviously, you'll only have to contact one provider and give them your move-out and move-in dates if you're transferring service. 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.
Your provider may 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 not be worth your time when you're trying to pack. Service transfer fees are often low, in the $10 to $20 range, but every dollar counts when moving.
Changing 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 and what you need to do with your equipment, all of which are good things to know before moving day.
Additionally, suppose your current provider is also available at your new address and you express interest in switching to a new provider. In that case, 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 installation 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 also pick a preferred window of time for the installation.
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 picking up the gear or waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
Here's 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.
Setting up your new Wi-Fi network
With a professional installation, your tech will know the best place to install your devices and should test your connection before leaving. However, there are times 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, making 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."
Internet service FAQs when moving
How long does it take to set up internet?
If you already have an internet provider and service to your home, you can set up a Wi-Fi network in a matter of minutes. Just plug in your router and follow the instructions to create a Wi-Fi network and password, then start connecting your devices.
Professional installation can take a bit longer, maybe as much as three or four hours if the installer needs to run wires or troubleshoot connection issues.
Will my ISP set up the internet in my new home if I transfer service?
Unless you have an internet connection that requires professional installation, such as satellite internet, don't count on it. If your new home is already wired for service, setup is little more than plugging in your router and creating your new Wi-Fi network. You won't need a technician for that, and your ISP likely won't send one out, though they should provide technical support online or over the phone if you need assistance.
Will my old Wi-Fi equipment work with my new provider?
If you're canceling service with your current provider and going with a new one, it's possible that any equipment you own, such as Wi-Fi routers and extenders, will be compatible with your new service.
This won't always be the case, however. When switching to a new connection type, say cable internet to fiber, you'll need a different type of modem.
If you were planning on taking rented equipment from your old provider to your new one, keep in mind that doing so will likely result in a hefty fee from your previous ISP. Not only that, but the devices are almost sure to not be compatible with your new service.
Where should I place my router in my new home?
Try to place your router in a central location in your home so that your router's Wi-Fi range can reach all corners of your home. It's also recommended to place your router somewhere high, like the top of a bookshelf, and free of obstructions. Avoid "hiding" it as doing so can limit range and possibly cause your router to overheat.
If your router is in the ideal spot but you're still experiencing dead spots, consider adding a Wi-Fi extender to your network or upgrading to a mesh Wi-Fi system for better coverage.