Ask LH: Should I Change ISP When I Move House?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m moving house in a few months: do I need to get a new Internet plan or can I continue using my current one? Is there anything I should know about NBN in my area? Thanks, Moving Connection

Moving house picture from Shutterstock

Dear Moving Connection,

If you’re happy with your current provider, in the majority of cases you won’t need to switch. The main issue is whether or not you can get the same plan at your new address. This isn’t always the case: while most of the larger ISPs offer national coverage, there’s often a difference between the plans they can offer if they have their own equipment in a given exchange and if they are buying wholesale access from another provider (Telstra owns the majority of equipment in Australian exchanges but sells lots of wholesale access to other companies). Even moving just a couple of blocks can place you on a different exchange, and that might mean a plan with less generous download limits or other changes.

The simple way to find out is to contact your provider. Many ISPs have a tool on their site which lets you check coverage for a given phone number, but that’s not going to be helpful if you haven’t actually moved yet. Your best bet is to jump on the phone and ask.

If you can’t stay on the same plan, then it’s definitely time to consider a new provider. Depending on the terms of your contract (if you had one), you may have to pay a termination fee when you move. The key to avoiding this is to be friendly to the person you’re chatting to on the phone — aggressively demanding to be let out of the deal won’t help, but staying calm and pleasant often gets results.

If you can stay on the same deal, you shouldn’t have to pay much more than a new connection fee. Providers will try and encourage you to sign up for a new contract, but that won’t always be a sensible move — an issue which brings us neatly to your second question about the National Broadband Network (NBN).

You can check the planned rollout schedule for the NBN by entering your address on the NBN Co site. If you’re really lucky, the NBN may be switched on at your new address, in which case I’d definitely look into getting an NBN plan instead. Check out our Planhacker guide to every NBN plan to see the (enormous) range that are available.

More likely, you’ll discover that the NBN isn’t available yet, but you may learn that your area is within the zone that’s expected to be covered within three years. If that’s the case, consider signing up for a shorter-term contract with an ISP, rather than a 24-month deal. While the latter will usually give you free router, having the flexibility to switch to a faster connection is worth the up-front hardware cost in our opinion.

(Side note: the rollout dates for the NBN would change under the Coalition NBN plan, which aims to connect a large number of premises more quickly, albeit at lower maximum speeds. You might want to take those claims with a grain of salt, given that infrastucture projects are renowned for delays, but if that did happen, it would be even more reason not to sign up to a long-term contract.)

Good luck with the move!


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