Want To Cancel Your Internet? Here's Your Early Termination Fee

High-Speed Internet providers are coming down with a case of the ETFs according to a survey by Consumers Union (the non-profit that publishes Consumer Reports.) Just like with cellphone providers, the practice is designed to prevent churn. Don’t expect them to admit it though:

Bobby Henson, director of media relations for Verizon, told Consumers Union that the company charges the fee to “regain what we have been giving the customer for free.”

Not all ISPs charge ETFs. Here’s a list of different providers and their fees:

• Comcast: No Fee
• Time Warner Cable: No Fee
• AT&T: $99
• Verizon: $69 FiOS, $79 DSL
• Qwest: $200
• Earthlink:$149

Dumping ISP may cost customers $150 [Boston Globe] (Thanks, j!)
(Photo: Maulleigh)


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  1. Nicholai says:

    You mean there’s an ISP that’s worse than time warner? wow.

  2. medalian1 says:

    Earthlink doesn’t charge one, atleast not in Florida. I’ve signed up for RoadRunner (Brighthouse/Time Warner) and Earthlink, and I always switch back and forth between the two when the promotional rate ends (usually 3-6 months). Earthlink here uses TW network though, so I imagine that has something to do with it.

  3. dragonflight says:

    I think its odd that Fios has a lower cancellation fee than DSL, considering that it requires so much more equipment and labor.

    Either way, I’m stuck with SBC DSL (not bad, mind you) because AT&T is refusing to run fiber (even in my large Chicagoan suburb).

  4. Havok154 says:

    I always thought that providing a good, reliable service at a good price would keep people with you. I guess charging them rediculous fees for leaving works too.

    Whenever I have the choice of a service with a contract or without one. I will always pick the one without first. This is the exact reason I have never tryed DSL and don’t plan to. When FIOS comes around, I’ll be paying the higher monthly fee, just because there is no way I’m going to commit to them, allowing service to slide and not being able to go to another company.

  5. acambras says:

    That really sucks. I suppose I can understand if they use ETFs to discourage people from seeking greener pastures. But what if they’re canceling DSL altogether?

    When I was figuring out a “crisis budget,” (how barebones could I go if I lost my income), I figured DSL would be on the list of non-necessities that could go (I’d revert to dial-up or go to the library). Now it would really suck if I had to execute such a “crisis budget” and got hit with an ETF fee — just when I was really cash-poor.

  6. timmus says:

    Holy cow, the Bronx has Internet?

  7. Rajio says:

    One day i will open a restaurant which will charge you an early termination fee for not finishing all the food on your plate.

  8. pdxguy says:

    @Rajio: funny! I’ll go one better – imagine couples being, umm, intimate, and if one should not happen to consummate the act, the other charges an early termination fee. can hear it now – ETF? WTF!

  9. acambras says:


    It’s just to regain [funds] for letting you get to third base for free.

  10. Squeezer99 says:

    bellsouth has an ETF, but I don’t know what it is. When I signed up for my DSL you had to agree to a 1 yr contract to get your dsl modem free ($99 value).

  11. LintMan says:

    BellSouth, my had a better way to discourage churn. When I signed up, they offered $100 worth of rebates covering the signup fee and discounting the first few months of service. Part of the agreement to receive the rebate was that you’d keep the service for a year or have to repay the rebate.

    They’re still locking you in for a year, and you’d still have to pay out if you leave early, but at least you get extra value for your commitment, and you don’t have to take the rebates if you don’t want to commit.

  12. LintMan says:

    Doh! That should be: “BellSouth, my ISP, had a better way to discourage churn”. Don’t know what happened there

  13. velocipenguin says:

    Time Warner Cable has a relatively customer-friendly policy?! I’ll believe that when I see it (two months from now, when I dump their sorry asses for FiOS.)

  14. holocron says:

    The QWEST ETF is only if you take on one of their “Price FOr Life” deals. You have a 2 year commitment but maintain the same price for as long as you have service.

    If you just order their DSL service you can cancel at any time.

  15. XianZhuXuande says:

    @darkblast93: Now there’s a memory from the past: Qworst [Qwest]. It became a household name in the Midwest when they merged, apparently through a hostile takeover, with telecommunications provider US West. This was back in the days of dial-up internet. I couldn’t download a file above 2 MBs due to the frequency of disconnections. Qwest did nothing to improve the image of US West, and simply became a new name to mound vulgarities upon.

    Seeing them at the top of this list simply makes me laugh. That is exactly the sort of distinction they love to earn. If they were a provider to the entirety of the United States, I’m sure we’d hear about them more at The Consumerist.

  16. Terek Kincaid says:

    Ok, I have to back up Verizon a bit, here. I just signed up with DSL for them, so I’m familiar with these terms. DSL is a different price depending on whether you sign up for a year of service or go month to month. Naturally, month to month is more expensive, but no EFT. It’s like any other contract. You don’t have to sign the contract to get service, but you’ll get a better deal if you do. However, you have to honor the deal you make. It’s a pretty one-sided contract if you can use up all the benefits and then just bail out with no penalties. You get a good price in exchange for agreeing to use the service for a certain time. You leave early, they have the right to take back the concessions they gave to you.

    While we’re on the subject, it’s the same thing will cell phones. The only reason you sign a contract is to save money on a phone. You don’t have to sign a contract; you do it because you think it’s worth the money you save on the phone. You can’t complain if they subsidize your phone for $200-300 and then want you to pay it back when you leave after 6 months. You don’t want the contract? DON’T SIGN IT!

  17. dbeahn says:

    @Squeezer99: $99 artificial value. They charge that price, but the modem itself is $20. It’d be like McDonalds saying “Buy a Big Mac, get a BigFreeFries (a $15.99 value) free!

  18. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    Qwest (at least here) does not require you to sign a contratct. If you do (in order to get a slightly lower rate, or in my case a certain rate for life), then there is an ETF. But otherwise there isn’t one.

  19. MonkeyMonk says:

    I signed up for Earthlink DSL a few years ago and after a couple of weeks was told that they couldn’t supply a consistant enough signal to my area so the order was cancelled.

    That didn’t stop them from putting an ETF on my credit card account a week later. An EFT that took me weeks and about 5 phone calls to get resolved. It was a total pain and I resolved to never give Earthlink another cent of my money again.

  20. Youngman says:

    The AT&T DSL in my area (I live in the East Bay of the SF Bay Area) has done away with one year contracts. This was definitely a good thing because I refused to sign up for Com-crap-cast.

  21. ironchef says:

    Dumping time warner is WORTH the extra $99 fee.
    Besides, FIOS packages a substantially sweet deal where you make up the $99 cost difference in less than 5 months.

  22. elf6c says:

    Only the regional phone companies/cell providers could manage to make the cable companies look customer friendly. Nice job fellas. [slow sarcastic golf claps. . . .]

  23. haroldx says:

    I’ve had nothing but tsuris since signing up for EarthLink’s DSL plan — failure to connect; outages of as much as a week; and having to wait, once, two hours on “hold” before giving up altogether.

    I’d love to try charging EarthLink with breach of contract — they promise good service — and maing them forfeit the penalty as I move elsewhere, but I have yet to be convinced that anybody else’s service/money ratio is any improvement.

  24. WEIRD I was just researching this today for Verizon!

    The way it breaks down for me is this:
    – 25$/month max 768k with a year agreement (79$ ETF)
    – 35$/month max 3mb w/ a year agreement + free wireless router (79$ ETF)
    – 42$/month max 3mb, no yearly agreement (no ETF)

    There is a high chance I’ll be moving out of my present place in the next 6 to 10 months. After doing the math, the differences average out to between 10 and 20$ at the higher speeds (which averages to

    In other words: its all a big shell game and I’ll wind up paying about the same amount no matter what. Yippee.

    Of course, if I stay closer to 10 months, then the economics change.

  25. bloodr says:

    Speakeasy also has an ETF of $150.

  26. crayonshinobi says:

    @dragonflight: Hey, I’m in the exact same situation! I wonder if we live in the same suburb.

    My municipality actually required AT&T to put Fios in for everyone (not just redline) or don’t put it in at all. So far, AT&T won’t share their toys.

    And I’ll be damned if I give money to Comcast. I find their cable internet service ridiculously overpriced. The ETF for DSL is only one month’s cable internet bill…

  27. jwissick says:

    Yeah AT&T does not have a ETF for DSL services….

  28. Ah'm Tha Sharaff says:

    Jeez I hope when Bellsouth’s switch to join with AT&T is complete I won’t be in a “new” contract for service. I’m thinking of moving out of state and I’ll be damned if I have to pay a termination fee for service I’ve held continually for almost 5 years.

  29. hardcle says:

    If you sign up for one of Time Warner’s package deals (cable, phone, internet)you’re required to sign a contract that includes an ETF. I went for one of these deals recently to save money. I wasn’t concerned about the contract or the ETF as I’ve been a customer for 10+ years and never really had a problem with them.

  30. roothorick says:

    $69 as a FIOS ETF? If I recall correctly, they’re waiving the cost of the installation in exchange for the year contract, and that installation happens to cost, guess what, $69. There’s a bigger scheme than just preventing churn here.

  31. LearningForever says:

    I recently moved to an area where Verizon is not a provider. It was really upsetting because I had totally enjoyed the services of Verizon. I only completed 9 months out of the 1 year contract and should have needed to pay the penalty fee. However, Verizon not just waived the penalty fee and even apologized for not having that service in my new area.

    When you signed up for the contract, they do tell you that there is a early termination fee. This is to offset their cost of the DSL modem and other things.

  32. rkwillms says:

    I just called to cancel my Verizon DSL service because the service was so poor. My connection was always below 800Kps even though I was supposedly supposed to have 1.5Mps. Also, my service was completely out twice in the past month for a total of over 6 days. I switched my service to Charter and when I called Verizon to cancel, they surprised me with the fact that I was in a contract. I explained to them that I specifically asked the operator when I signed up for service if I would be in a contract and she definitely stated NO. I made this clear, because I didn’t have any phone service run to my house, the operator said I would have to sign up for phone service for one month, then could cancel the phone service and just keep what they called a “dry loop”. I made sure that I wasn’t in any contract for a year or two before deciding to switch. When I called the Verizon to cancel, they said they didn’t care what the operator told me, but it says in the user agreement (the 10 pages of text nobody reads) of their activation software that I am in a contract. The contract apparently reduced my monthly payment from 49.xx to 43.xx, a stinking $6 a month savings!! Give me a break. I would not recommend anyone using Verizon DSL because of their service, cost, or ethics.

  33. Anonymous says:

    qwest is absolutely the qworst internet provider…they promised up to 1.5 mps and never produced more than
    .5! i’m sure they would pay their own employee’s for a 40 hour work week when they only showed up 14! they still charge the $200.00 early termination fee…why else would
    anyone stay with them?

  34. lpgirl29 says:

    I got contracts with ETF (Early termination fees) on them from At&t mobility 2 years and citylink internet.
    I think this ETF charges shouldn’t be legal. nobody should be obligated to pay for this fees, specially when some companies offer poor service and are incompetent. This goes against people’s freedom to decide. It’s frustrating when I’m not able to switch to another company that simply offers a better deal without hurting my pocket.