Cancel Your Internet Service the Smart Way: Verizon, AT&T, Spectrum, Google Fiber and More

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This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

You’ll need to break up with your internet service provider at some point — whether you’ve found a better internet option in your area, are moving too far away to keep in touch, or it’s simply a matter of “it’s not you, it’s me.” 

But how do you go about canceling service, and when should you do it? 

This guide will explain step-by-step how to cancel your internet service. Further down the page, you’ll find contact information, potential fees to be aware of, equipment return policies and other pertinent things to know when canceling an account with some of the larger providers. For more, check out our tips for how to speed up your Wi-Fi and our picks for the best internet providers of 2022

How to cancel your home internet service

There are five steps you’ll need to follow:

1. Shop all your internet options.
2. Plan your cancellation.
3. Set up your new service.
4. Call to cancel.
5. Return your equipment.

Simple enough, right? If that’s all you need to know, jump down to the provider section for contact information and other things to know about canceling with your specific provider. Note that every possible ISP isn’t listed, so you may not see yours, but you’ll find most of the top ISPs are there.

Meanwhile, if you need a little more clarification on what each step entails, I’ve gone more in-depth below.

Shop all your internet options

Whether you’re moving house or thinking about switching providers, the first step towards canceling your current internet service is understanding your alternatives. Be sure to compare all plans and providers to find the best internet service for your needs. You can get a glimpse of the top available ISPs in your area or where you’re moving to by plugging your ZIP code into the tool above.

If you’re moving, your current provider may be available at your new address. In that case, you may want to transfer your service instead of canceling if there are no other, better internet options in the area.

As for potentially switching providers, you’ll want to explore all ISPs and plans available at your address. You may find that the grass isn’t greener on the other side and end up sticking with your current provider. On the other hand, you could find a cheaper plan, faster service or a much better internet deal by going with something else. 

Helpful tips on shopping for new internet service

  • Use a full address instead of a ZIP code. ISPs vary by location, sometimes within the same ZIP code. If you’re moving, you may not know exactly where you’ll end up yet, but try to use a full address for the best representation of your internet options. 
  • Evaluate more than plans and pricing. There’s a lot to consider when signing up for internet service. Beyond the basics of your monthly bill, things like contracts, data caps, equipment fees, price increases and the internet connection type will impact your overall experience. Be sure you understand those details as you comparison-shop.
  • Transferring service is better than canceling and starting over at a new address. It’ll give you a more seamless experience and should carry over any special promotions or deals you have.

Plan your cancellation

OK, you’re set on canceling with your provider. Now what? Figure out when exactly you want to terminate service, and do a little research beforehand, so you know what to expect when the time comes.

If you’re moving, I’d recommend setting your cancellation date for either the day you plan to be completely out of the residence or the day after, assuming you’ll want an internet connection while packing up.

When switching to a new provider, your cancellation date should be the day of your new service installation to minimize the time you have to go without internet. Getting that installation date will have you completing the next step before this one, but more on that in a bit.

Are you under contract?

Either way, you’ll want to know if you’re under contract with your current provider and what penalties, if any, may come with your cancellation. Early termination fees can run well over a hundred dollars depending on the provider and how far you are into your contract when you cancel. You may find that sticking with the provider for a little while could save you some money.

Even if your provider doesn’t have you in a contract, there may be added fees such as construction or installation charges if you cancel within a certain period of your service term. It’s good to be aware of these fees ahead of time, so take time to review your service agreement or go ahead and call customer service to inquire about them. No need to explain what your intentions are. Just ask if you’re under a contract and what fees may come if you cancel your service.

Helpful tips on planning your cancellation

  • Be mindful of when the next billing cycle starts. Some providers may charge the next billing cycle in full when you cancel — it’d be unfortunate to pay for an entire month of service if you’ll only end up using it for a couple of days.
  • If under contract, look for contract buyout offers. Spectrum, Optimum and Verizon Fios, among others, will cut a check or offer bill credit to help cover early termination fees, typically up to $500.
  • See what your current provider will do to keep your business. If you’re switching providers for a cheaper rate or faster plan, call your current provider to see if you can negotiate a better deal, perhaps better than the one you’d be switching to. 

Set up your new service

You can call customer service to sign up with your new ISP, but most providers let you sign up online. Some, including AT&T, Kinetic and Verizon Fios (as of this writing), run exclusive promotions that are only available when you order online.

Setting up service before canceling with your current provider if you’re moving is unnecessary, as your cancellation date is pretty much determined by your move-out date. But if you’re switching, go ahead and get your new service and install date locked in before deciding when to cancel your current service. 

Helpful tips on setting up your new service

  • Come prepared. Have the internet plan and Wi-Fi setup (if applicable, some providers offer basic Wi-Fi and mesh systems) you want already picked out. Make sure to have your address and payment information ready as well.
  • See if self-installation is an option. Not only will it allow you to install equipment on your terms, but self-installation is also often cheaper, too. 
  • Be prepared for potentially far-out install dates. If you decline self-install or it’s not an option, don’t be surprised if installation isn’t available for a week or further out from placing your order. Labor shortages and supply chain issues affect everyone.

Call to cancel

Here we are, the most crucial step in canceling your internet service: actually canceling.

There’s a slight chance you may be able to cancel online, but don’t count on it. Most providers will make you call in so they can attempt to keep you as a customer. 

As with any customer service line, you can expect to be on hold for a bit. Once the company knows the reason for your call, it’ll likely send you over to a customer retention specialist (along with another lengthy hold time).

Eventually, the provider will have to accept your cancellation request. Pay close attention to the information you receive, so you’re aware of any additional charges or requirements for returning your equipment.

Helpful tips on calling to cancel your internet service

  • Have pen and paper handy. You’ll get some vital information, including the name of the person who processed your cancellation, a confirmation number, and details about fees and returning equipment. Write it all down, and ask if the company can email it to you.
  • Be firm in your request, but stay polite. Yes, the attempts to keep your business can be annoying, but it’s their job. Remember, they’re people on the other end of the line, too.
  • Don’t give up on hold. I won’t make any direct accusations, but it’s plausible to assume that once a customer reveals their intent to cancel, the call is devalued in terms of priority. You may be on hold longer than you would if you wanted to pay your bill or upgrade your service.

Return your equipment

The breakup is complete. The only thing left is to box up and return any belongings. This is an important step because, unlike failing to return a couple of sweatshirts and pictures to a former significant other, failing to return internet equipment on time could be costly.

Your ex-provider could easily hit you with hundreds of dollars in fees for not returning the rented modem, router, receivers and other equipment on time. Are those items worth what your ISP charges in fees? Most likely not, but it’s one way the company can get back at you for canceling on it. Don’t let it have that satisfaction.

Helpful tips on returning your equipment

  • Return to a brick and mortar store, if possible. Most providers have local stores where you can return your equipment. It may be out of the way, but doing it in person will ensure a successful return, and you’ll probably get a receipt of the transaction.
  • See if your ISP will provide shipping materials and cover the costs. Your provider doesn’t have to, but it’s good customer service practice to make returning equipment as painless as possible. If it doesn’t outright offer to send you packing materials and cover the shipping cost, ask for it. You may not get it, but it never hurts to ask.
  • Pay the fees and any other outstanding charges. If you miss the return date, see if you can still send the equipment back and get the fee waived (it’s not worth keeping the equipment as it likely won’t be compatible with your new service). If not, or if you have other outstanding charges on the account, try to get them removed or make plans to pay. Failure to pay your account balance will likely hurt your credit score and make things harder to return to the provider down the road.

Cancellation details by provider

The process for canceling your internet is pretty much the same with any internet service, but there may be some minor differences between them. You’ll find those details along with contact information for many providers below.

Scroll down to find your provider, or click the applicable link to drop directly to it. Again, not every possible ISP is listed here, so yours may not be shown.

Jump to your provider

How to cancel AT&T internet

AT&T doesn’t require a contract for internet, so you shouldn’t have any early termination fees to worry about when you cancel. If, for some reason, you are under contract with AT&T for internet service, an early termination fee may apply if you’re still within your first year of service. 

You may be able to cancel online if you have DSL service through AT&T, but all other customers, fiber and fixed wireless, will need to call AT&T customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 800-288-2020
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: Up to $180.
Equipment return: By mail only, UPS or FedEx within 21 days.
Fee for late or no return: $150

AT&T makes it pretty easy to return your equipment. Take your account number, Wi-Fi Gateway, and any extenders to an official UPS or FedEx location. You don’t even have to box it up.

Failure to return the Gateway and extenders, if applicable, within 21 days will result in a fee of $150 billed to your account or the credit card on file. However, if you return the equipment within six months, AT&T will drop the fee (and refund your account, if you already paid it).

Visit AT&T’s cancel service page.

Astound Broadband

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How to cancel Astound (RCN) internet

Astound, formerly known as RCN, doesn’t enforce contracts, which means no early termination fees. 

You will need to call Astound customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 800-427-8686
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: None.
Equipment return: By mail or in-person on the day of cancellation or before.
Fee for late or no return: Varies by device(s).

Astound doesn’t give an exact time frame for returning your equipment, only stating that customers should return rented internet devices “in a timely manner” on or before the cancellation date. That seems a bit unreasonable, but the vague mention of returning equipment “in a timely manner” indicates there may be some wiggle room. Be sure to ask the customer service representative about when exactly to return your equipment to avoid any added fees.

For more information, visit Astound’s equipment return policy page.

CenturyLink logo on a phone screen

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How to cancel CenturyLink internet

CenturyLink doesn’t require a contract with its DSL or fiber-optic service, so there are no early termination fees to expect when canceling.

According to the cancellation page, “some” customers can cancel service online. Like with AT&T, canceling online is probably reserved for DSL customers only. For everything else, you’ll need to call CenturyLink customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: The correct number to call varies by location. To get the number, go to the CenturyLink contact page and click the blue location pin at the top. Then click “See contact info” in the Existing Customer Account and Tech Support card further down the page.
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time
Early termination fee: None.
Equipment return: By mail within 30 days of canceling.
Fee for late or no return: $200

The CenturyLink cancellation page is surprisingly helpful. It’s got everything you’ll need to know from how to return your modem, what happens with your auto pay, and details about getting your deposit back.

Visit the CenturyLink cancel service page.

COX

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How to cancel Cox internet

Cox doesn’t “require” a contract, but if you want the lowest introductory rate on your internet plan, you may need to sign a one-year contract. Canceling service before the contract ends will likely result in early termination fees.

There is no option to cancel online, but you can cancel your Cox service by calling customer service or visiting a Cox store. Going to a store location may be your best option so that you can cancel and return your equipment simultaneously. Find a Cox store.

Customer service number: 800-234-3993
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Early termination fee: Up to $360.
Equipment return: Drop off in-store or mail by UPS within 10 days.
Fee for late or no return: Up to $200.

Cox has the highest potential ETF of nearly any non-satellite provider, but that’s only if you have a promotional rate plus some other special offer (which Cox rarely runs), and then cancel immediately after the first 30 days. Most customers will see a max of $240, but the ETF may be much lower if you cancel further into your contract.

 Visit the Cox cancel service page

Earthlink

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How to cancel EarthLink internet

All EarthLink internet plans come with a one-year contract. Canceling before the contract is up may result in an ETF. 

You will need to call EarthLink customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 888-327-8454
Hours: Seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET
Early termination fee: Up to $200.
Equipment return: By mail within 30 days of canceling. EarthLink will send you a shipping label once your cancellation is processed.
Fee for late or no return: Varies.

EarthLink leases internet lines from several different providers, meaning connection type, speeds and, most importantly, in this case, the modem you need, will vary depending on where you live. Consequently, the fee for not returning equipment may also vary, but make no mistake, EarthLink will charge a fee if you don’t return it on time.

Learn more at the EarthLink terms and conditions page.

Frontier

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How to cancel Frontier internet

Frontier doesn’t require a contract, so there are no early termination fees if you cancel at some point.

You will need to call Frontier customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 866-786-6693
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: None.
Equipment return: By mail within 30 days. Take to an official UPS store with the QR code provided by Frontier.
Fee for late or no return: Up to $150 per device.

Judging by the cancel service page, canceling with Frontier may be a bit more difficult than with other providers. Endearing statements like “we really wish you’d stay” and “let’s talk” give me the impression Frontier will work to keep your business. Nothing wrong with that, and totally understandable. Just be prepared for it when you call.

Visit the Frontier cancel service page.

Google Fiber

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How to cancel Google Fiber internet

Google Fiber does not require a contract, but if you’ve already had the service installed, you may still be hit with a cancellation “construction” fee.

If you haven’t had service installed yet, you can cancel online via your Google Fiber account. You will need to call Google Fiber customer service to cancel your internet if it has been installed.

Customer service number: 866-777-7550
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: Up to $300 (construction fee).
Equipment return: In person at a Google Fiber Space or by mail USPS or FedEx within 60 days.
Fee for late or no return: Up to $280 for ONT device and router.

You will only have a termination fee with Google Fiber if you opt to have your construction fee spread out over monthly payments ($25 per month). You will be responsible for the remaining balance if you cancel service before the construction fee is paid in full.

Visit the Google Fiber cancel service page.

HughesNet logo on a phone

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How to cancel HughesNet internet

All HughesNet plans come with a two-year contract and a potentially hefty fine for canceling service early.

You will need to call HughesNet customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 866-482-1777
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: Up to $400.
Equipment return: By mail within 45 days.
Fee for late or no return: $300

Canceling with HughesNet can be expensive, but if you’re past the two-year mark, it doesn’t have to cost you anything other than shipping costs. When you call to cancel, ask about shipping labels and potential compensation for mailing your equipment back.

For more information about equipment return fees and ETFs, visit the HughesNet service terms and conditions page.

Kinetic

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How to cancel Kinetic internet

Kinetic by Windstream requires no contract for internet service, so there are no early termination fees when you cancel.

To cancel your Kinetic service, call the customer service number or visit a local Kinetic store location. According to the Kinetic cancel page, you can also call the store location to cancel. Find a Kinetic store.

Customer service number: 800-347-1991
Hours: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m to 8 p.m. ET; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Early termination fee: None.
Equipment return: Call customer service for details.
Fee for late or no return: Call customer service for details.

Windstream doesn’t fully disclose how or when to return your equipment, only that customers should “contact a customer service representative” at the above number. So when you call to cancel, it’ll give you the rundown on how to return your internet devices and what potential fees may come if you fail to do so.

For more contact information, visit the Kinetic customer support page

Mediacom

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How to cancel Mediacom internet

Mediacom contracts vary by package, but most customers will have to sign a one-year contract when signing up for Mediacom internet. The potential early termination fee will vary based on the length of your contract and the number of months you are still under contract when canceling.

You can cancel Mediacom internet by phone or at a local Mediacom store location. Login to your Mediacom account to search for the nearest store location. 

Customer service number: 855-633-4226
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: Up to $240 with two- and three-year agreements, $120 with one-year agreement.
Equipment return: By mail or in person at a store location. Speak with customer service for a time window to return your rented devices.
Fee for late or no return: Call customer service for details.

Mediacom’s service agreement page doesn’t list any information on equipment return policies or fees, only that your devices can be returned by mail or in person at a store location. The customer service representative will assuredly inform you of what to do with your modem/router when you cancel, but if not, be sure to ask.

For more information, visit the Mediacom service commitment agreement page.

optimum logo on a phone screen with a blue background

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How to cancel Optimum or Suddenlink internet

Optimum and Suddenlink, both home internet brands of Altice, do not require a contract for home internet service. There are no early termination fees, however, customers may be required to pay the balance for the full billing cycle.

With either service, you will need to call to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 866-347-4784 (Optimum), 877-694-9474 (Suddenlink)
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: Full billing cycle.
Equipment return: “Promptly” by mail or in person at a store location. Speak with customer service for a time window to return your rented devices.
Fee for late or no return: Call customer service for details.

Optimum (or Suddenlink) doesn’t state exactly when to return your gateway device, only that it should be done “promptly.” Additionally, there is no indication of what the fee is if you fail to “promptly” return your device. Ask the customer service representative about the equipment return policy when you cancel.

For more information visit the Optimum terms of service or Suddenlink residential services agreement page

Spectrum

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How to cancel Spectrum internet

Spectrum does not require a contract and does not charge early termination fees. 

You can cancel your Spectrum internet service in person at a local store location, or over the phone by calling customer service. Find a Spectrum store location near you.

Customer service number: 833-267-6094
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: None.
Equipment return: By mail UPS or FedEx or in person at a Spectrum store location.
Fee for late or no return: Call customer service for details.

Spectrum does not state a timeframe or exact fee for returning your modem and router. Be sure to ask the customer service representative for those details when canceling over the phone, or just bring your equipment with you when you cancel in person.

Visit the Spectrum cancel service page

Verizon Fios

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How to cancel Verizon internet

Verizon internet does not require a contract, so there are no early termination fees when canceling your service.

You will need to call Verizon customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 844-837-2262
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Early termination fee: None.
Equipment return: By mail within 30 days of canceling service.
Fee for late or no return: Varies by device, up to $210 or more.

Verizon is protective of its equipment. Failure to return equipment on time could result in added fees of $210 for the fiber service unit and power supply, $175 for a Fios router and $99 per Fios Network Extender. Get that equipment in on time. 

Visit the Verizon cancel service page.

Viasat

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How to cancel Viasat internet

Viasat plans require a two-year contract. Canceling early will result in an early termination fee. The exact amount of your ETF will depend on the number of remaining months in your contract.

You will need to call Viasat customer service to cancel your internet.

Customer service number: 855-463-9333
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: $15 for each month remaining on your contract, up to $360.
Equipment return: By mail within 60 days, recently updated from 30 days.
Fee for late or no return: Up to $300.

Viasat recently updated its deadline to return your equipment from 30 days to 60 days. Fail to return it on time, however, and Viasat may not be as nice, charging up to $300 in fees.

Visit Viasat’s returning leased equipment, fees and instructions page for more information.

Xfinity logo

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How to cancel Xfinity internet

Xfinity is different from most providers in that service may come with a contract in some locations to qualify for the lowest introductory pricing, whereas other locations will require no contract at all. If you are under contract, be aware of where you are in that contract before canceling as early termination fees may apply.

Xfinity gives you a few options when it comes to canceling. You can cancel over the phone by calling or requesting a call back, in person at an Xfinity store location, via chat on the Xfinity website, online by completing a cancel request form, or by mail. Find an Xfinity store location.

Customer service number: 800-934-6489
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Early termination fee: $10 for each remaining month on your contract, up to $230
Equipment return: By UPS prepaid pickup or dropoff at a UPS location, or in person at an Xfinity location. 
Fee for late or no return: Varies by equipment, up to $300 or more.

Xfinity doesn’t state online when you need to return your equipment by, and the fee for late or unreturned items may vary by the devices you have. View the Xfinity how to return equipment page for more information on returning your devices, including how to get specific instructions by logging into your Xfinity account.

Visit the Xfinity cancel service page.

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