Switching broadband provider

Couple with laptop

It's become much easier to switch broadband providers in recent years, which in turn has led to better deals for consumers.

That’s because internet providers have to provide competitive deals or risk losing their customers to a rival brand.

One of the reasons for this improvement in switching was Ofcom's introduction of mandatory Migration Authorisation Codes or MACs.

A MAC is a unique code which identifies a particular line and enables customers to switch ISPs smoothly and with minimal disruption.

MAC rules

How does the MAC process work?

Once you decide you want to switch broadband provider you ask your internet provider for a MAC code. It consists of four letters followed by between seven and nine numbers, a slash, and five alphanumeric characters (e.g. LAEM1234567/1F6HT).

Your existing ISP must provide the MAC to you within five working days and it’s valid for a period of 30 days.

You should then present the MAC to the ISP you want to switch to and it will then process the request to migrate and inform you of the transfer date.

The service should then be transferred seamlessly and with little or no disruption of service.

But that wasn’t always the case. Initially, ISPs could choose whether to provide customers with a MAC and at one time Ofcom received over 800 complaints a month from customers who couldn’t get one.

This meant that consumers were often left without broadband for some time while a transfer was made, or simply stuck with their old provider.

In 2007 Ofcom introduced new rules ensuring all ISPs supplied consumers with a MAC upon request and free of charge and since then consumer complaints have fallen significantly.

Switching process

Once you have decided you want to change broadband provider, use our template letter to help you with the switching process.

However, it's important to remember that you need to operate within the terms of your existing broadband contract.

Most broadband contracts operate for a fixed term (12 or 18 months, for example), and users can be charged for prematurely ending the contract.

It is therefore important to check the terms of your contract before entering the switching process. The MAC process should ensure you switch providers with the minimum of fuss.