No one likes being offline for weeks in the middle of a stressful move. Finding a good internet service provider (ISP) quickly for your new home not only helps out in the long run, but also can make your move much less stressful.
To help you out, we’ve narrowed down some of our top picks for internet providers when you’re moving to a new location.
Best for self-installation
Best internet service providers when you move
The biggest factor in choosing an ISP for home internet is availability. There are lots of smaller ISPs that provide great service and have great customer reviews, but that doesn’t mean much if they don’t cover your area.
As such, we’ve limited our top picks to nationwide providers that cover a large segment of the US population. We also considered the speed and reliability of the internet service as well as its associated costs before adding it to our recommendations.
Already picked out a new ISP? Here are some tips on getting your connection set up.
Xfinity—Best for self-installation
Comcast’s Xfinity internet service is one of the largest ISPs in the US and the largest provider of cable internet access.1 Starting out as a cable television company, Comcast leveraged its large cable infrastructure to provide high-speed internet access to homes across the country. Based out of Philadelphia, Xfinity’s coverage is especially comprehensive on the East Coast, but it reaches most major cities on the West Coast as well.
Xfinity’s internet plans
|Plan details||Xfinity's internet|
|Contract||Up to 2 yrs.|
|Download speeds||25–1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)*|
|Up to 2 yrs.|
|25–1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)*|
Data as of 9/30/20.
*Excludes Xfinity Gigabit Pro. For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
- Easy self-installation
- Availability in most major cities
- Fast download speeds
- Inconsistent pricing between regions
What sets Xfinity apart?
Like most ISPs, Xfinity gives you the option to either have your internet installed by a professional technician or (if your house is already wired for Xfinity) the option to install your own equipment and save some money. Installing a cable modem isn’t terribly difficult, but you do need a bit of technical skill. There are also slight differences between equipment models that can trip you up if you’re not paying attention.
Xfinity sets itself apart from the competition by providing a companion app that can walk you through the installation process. The app can scan codes on your equipment to customize its instructions to your specific equipment, giving you many of the advantages of a professional technician without any additional cost. This makes Xfinity easily the most user-friendly internet service to set up.
Consistent quality of service
All of Xfinity’s customers have access to high-speed cable internet or better, so you get the same quality of service no matter where you move to. This is great for those who regularly stream video like Netflix or own a lot of internet-connected devices.
The biggest downside is that while Xfinity’s download speeds are consistent everywhere in the US, prices may vary by region. When you’re comparing prices, make sure to look at prices in your new location, not the place you’re moving from.
Fast cable internet
Xfinity’s network uses coaxial cables, the same kind used in cable TV. Although these cables are made of copper, they can carry high-frequency electrical signals with very low losses. This means that cable connections are much faster than DSL and often rival fiber connections in terms of pure download speeds. Combined with Xfinity’s large network infrastructure, this technology makes Xfinity the fastest option available in many areas.
Although cable networks often have advertised speeds on par with fiber, there are some important differences. Since cable TV has to be broadcast in only one direction, cable networks are optimized for download speeds, with uploads occurring at a much slower speed. Cable networks can also experience slowdowns during high-traffic periods. That means if you and your neighbors all want to use the internet at the same time, you probably won’t get the same speeds that you do outside of peak hours.
UPLOAD VS. DOWNLOAD SPEEDS
UPLOAD VS. DOWNLOAD SPEEDS
With the exception of technologies like fiber, which upload and download at the same rate, most types of internet connection have faster download speeds than upload speeds. Download speed is also what most online activities use the most. Web surfing, watching video, and downloading software require only a small amount of upload speed to function. However, if you do a lot of livestreaming or video chatting, upload speed should figure more heavily into your decision.
AT&T—Best for bundling
AT&T was already a household name in telephone service before it became one of the largest internet service providers in the US. Its extensive telephone network allowed it to offer dial-up internet and later DSL to a wide market.
AT&T has continued to upgrade its network, bringing fiber-optic connections to many large cities. It operates throughout the US, but it’s especially widespread in the South, Midwest, and California.
AT&T’s internet plans
|Plan details||AT&T's internet|
|Contract||Up to 2 yrs.|
|Download speeds||100–940 Mbps|
|Installation fee||$99.00; $35.00 for self-install|
|Up to 2 yrs.|
|$99.00; $35.00 for self-install|
Data as of 9/30/20.
* For 12 mos., plus taxes & equip fee. $10/mo. equip. fee applies. Incl. 1TB data/mo.; overage charges apply. Ltd avail./areas.
- Many bundled service plans
- Fiber in some areas
- Low introductory offers
- Wide availability
- Mostly DSL connections
- 1–2 yr. contracts
What sets AT&T apart?
Lots of bundle options
When you’re in the middle of a complicated move, it’s nice to kill two (or three) birds with one stone. Many ISPs give you the option to bundle your internet service with a phone or TV plan, but few have as many options available as AT&T. AT&T offers phone service and bundles with DIRECTV and HBO Max. If you plan on getting new phone and TV providers along with internet service in your new location, bundling all three through AT&T can save you a lot of money.
Although AT&T offers a staggering selection of options to choose from, most of the benefits of these plans are lost if all you want is internet. If you get your entertainment through Netflix and Hulu, paying for an additional TV plan won’t save you money, even if you bundle.
Bundles can also make long-term contracts more complicated. Although AT&T offers internet plans on one-year contracts, many of the TV plans that come in bundles come with a two-year contract.
For frequent movers or those who might be looking to switch providers, breaking these contracts early can come with some hefty fees. Signing up for bundled deals can save you a lot of money in the long run, but it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly.
In some areas, AT&T offers access to its AT&T Fiber℠ internet service, which gives speeds up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps). Fiber connections offer the fastest speeds of any type of internet currently available. Unlike cable or DSL connections, fiber offers consistently fast speeds, even at peak usage hours. Fiber also offers symmetrical upload and download speeds, which means that you can upload videos and other files just as fast as you can download them.
The only real downside to AT&T’s fiber plans is their limited availability. Less than a third of AT&T customers currently have the option to sign up for its fiber plan,1 so even if AT&T does offer service in your area, it’s most likely a much slower DSL connection. That said, if AT&T Fiber is available in your area, we highly suggest you get it. The only plans that can compete with a fiber plan are other fiber plans.
Although AT&T might be almost as big as it was back in the days of Ma Bell (as it was known in the days before the AT&T antitrust case), it doesn’t have a monopoly on bundles. Xfinity’s Triple Play bundles offer a large number of channels, while Suddenlink and RCN offer bundles without the tricky contracts that other companies require.
Spectrum—Best for contract buyouts
Charter Communications is another large US telecommunications company and its internet service, Spectrum, is available nationwide, though it’s most widely available in the Midwest and the East Coast. Spectrum operates a 100% cable network, which means that it shares many of the advantages and disadvantages of Xfinity.
Spectrum’s internet plans
|Plan details||Spectrum's internet|
|Download speeds||100–940 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)|
|Installation fee||$49.99; $9.99 for self-install|
|100–940 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)|
|$49.99; $9.99 for self-install|
Data as of 9/30/20.
* For the first 12 months.
- Contract buyout options*
- Fast download speeds
- Uniform speeds in all areas
- No data caps
- Fewer plan options
* With order and installation of qualifying promotion. Read full disclaimer.
What sets Spectrum apart?
The only thing worse than trying to set up a new internet service in the middle of moving is when you’re also dealing with your previous internet service. Long-term contracts can have high early termination fees (ETFs), and, especially in the case of an unexpected move, there’s often no other option but to pay them.
Or is there?
That’s one of the perks of switching to Spectrum Internet—it will buy out your previous contract when you sign up, covering up to $500 of your early termination fees.
So, how exactly does this work? Unfortunately, you still have to pay the fees to your old ISP, but make sure you hold on to that bill. If you send a copy of your final bill along with the appropriate forms to Spectrum, it’ll send you a check to cover your costs.
Contract buyouts do have some limitations though. Spectrum will buy you out of your old contract only if you sign up for certain packages, so for frequent movers, this might put you in another plan you don’t want. Additionally, plans that qualify for contract buyouts aren’t available everywhere, so make sure you check the availability at your new location to make sure that it’s an option. Contract buyouts don’t work for everyone, but they can be a lifesaver in the right situation.
Honorable mentions—contract buyouts
Cox—Best for frequent movers
Cox is another nationwide ISP, though it’s the smallest one on this list. Although its coverage is only a sixth the size of larger companies like AT&T,2 Cox provides service in 607 service areas spread across 19 states.3
Cox’s internet plans
|Plan details||Cox's internet|
|Contract||Up to 2 yrs.|
|Download speeds||10–940 Mbps|
|Up to 2 yrs.|
Data as of mm/dd/yy.
* For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
- Good no-contract plans
- Low upfront cost
- Price guarantee
- Limited availability
- Higher-cost upper-tier plans
- Lower speeds on no-contract plans
What sets Cox apart?
Good no-contract options
If you move often or might have to move suddenly, being stuck in a long-term contract with your internet provider can be a serious liability. To help you avoid this, the Cox StraightUp Internet plan will give you cable internet access for $50 per month with no contract required. With payment on a month-to-month basis, you can pick up and leave at any time with no early termination fees.
As a bonus, this plan also comes with a three-year price guarantee. So even if you end up staying in one place for an extended period of time, you don’t have to worry about price hikes.
The downside of Cox StraightUp Internet is that it’s not as fast as many of its higher-tier plans that require a contract. Cox offers speeds up to 940 Mbps, though its prices are far less competitive at these speeds. If you’re willing to sign a contract, you’ll likely get a better deal somewhere else.
Low upfront cost
Many ISPs offer some form of prepaid or month-to-month option, but what really sets Cox StraightUp Internet apart is the lack of upfront costs. Most no-contract plans come with installation costs or require you to buy a modem. These initial investments can add up if you move multiple times in a single year, which kind of defeats the purpose of going with a flexible, no-contract plan in the first place. Cox StraightUp Internet not only has no contracts, but also has no deposit, no credit checks, and no installation fees. Cox will give you a refurbished modem, and it’s yours to keep. Literally the only things you need to get started are $50 and an address that’s covered by Cox’s service area. Few other ISPs can boast anything comparable to that.
Honorable mentions—frequent movers
Most ISPs will offer at least one no-contract option, so there are a lot of options out there for frequent movers. The main things to consider are the upfront fees and any price hikes after the first few months. The best plans will give you transparent billing and a simple flat rate for the whole plan.
Recapping our top 4 internet providers for movers
- Xfinity—Best for self-installation
- AT&T—Best for bundling
- Spectrum—Best for contract buyouts
- Cox—Best for frequent movers
Best of the rest
These four providers are among the biggest internet providers in the US, so you’re likely to encounter at least one or two of them no matter where you’re moving to. But there are still a lot of great smaller ISPS. It’s definitely worth a look to see if any of these providers with a smaller coverage footprint are available in your new area.
You may have noticed that none of our top picks had much in the way of fiber networks. Fiber offers the fastest, most reliable speeds available and has the highest potential to improve as internet technology improves. So, where are all the fiber providers?
Much of the growth in fiber-to-the-home has been driven by smaller, local ISPs, as well as newcomers to the scene, like Google Fiber.4 These companies serve small areas, but they offer some of the fastest speeds and have some of the best reviews of any ISP out there. Some larger ISPs like AT&T and Verizon are starting to catch up with their own fiber networks, but many others are falling behind the curve.5
When moving to a new area, it’s a good idea to see if fiber is available in any part of the city. The advantages of a fiber connection are enough that it’s worth considering fiber availability when deciding which neighborhood you move to.
Most major population centers in the US have some form of fixed broadband network, but there are still many rural areas that fall outside their reach. If you’re moving to a rural area without access to fiber, cable, or even DSL internet, you’re still not out of luck.
You can get satellite internet from providers like Viasat and HughesNet anywhere in the US. That makes satellite providers the best internet providers for rural areas simply because they’re the most available. All you need is a place to mount a satellite dish that has a clear view of the southern sky.
Satellite is usually the best option only when it’s the only option. It generally offers lower speeds than even DSL while being much more expensive. It also has low data caps, which means you have to be judicious with your internet use.
Still, if all else fails, you can always fall back on satellite internet. It also means that for those who work online, you can literally work from anywhere in the US—just as long as you’re willing to pay for an expensive (and slower) internet plan.
We want to hear from you
Choosing an ISP can seem like finding a needle in a haystack, but there’s something for everyone. There are fiber and cable plans for those who want pure speed, no-contract plans for those who want flexibility, and satellite plans for those who want to connect from anywhere in the US. If you’ve found an amazing ISP that didn’t make our list, let us know!
Want to know what ISPs are available in your new area? Enter your new zip code below to see the top providers in your future neighborhood.
- Federal Communications Commission, “Fixed Broadband Deployment,” Map layer based on FCC Form 477. Accessed September 3, 2020
- Federal Communications Commission “Fixed Broadband Deployment.” Map layer based on FCC Form 477. Accessed September 3, 2020
- Cox Communications, Inc., “Cox Service Areas,” Accessed September 4, 2020.
- Blair Levin and Larry Downes, “Why Google Fiber Is High-Speed Internet’s Most Successful Failure,” September 7, 2018. Accessed September 4, 2020.
- Peter Christiansen, HighSpeedInternet.com, “Frontier’s Bankruptcy: What Does it Mean for Customers?” May 18, 2020. Accessed September 4, 2020.
To qualify for the Contract Buyout Program, a customer must order and install a qualifying Triple Play or limited Double Play promotion; offers not available in all areas. Offer available to qualifying customers only who have no outstanding obligations to Charter. Payment amount will be determined by the Early Termination Fee on the final bill from the previous provider, not to exceed $500. For Contract Buyout qualifications, go to Spectrum.com/buyout.
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