Picture this: You just broke ground on your soon-to-be dream home. The friendly neighbors mentioned the local internet service provider (ISP) is great. You’re already looking forward to Netflix movie nights with the family and working remotely from your cozy screened-in patio.
As moving day closes in, every task is checked off your to-do list. Except one. Unexpectedly, that local ISP tells you not only do they not offer service to your location, but to run a new line to your home would cost upwards of $5,000!
Sound crazy? Unfortunately, it’s not all that unusual. The U.S. Census Bureau announced the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts for March 2023 at over 1.4 million. When houses are added to existing neighborhoods, typically the local ISP will automatically expand the internet lines to the new residences. However, this isn’t always the case.
Whether you’re designing a colonial, mid-century modern or a log cabin, having internet is non-negotiable for most families these days. New homeowners are left puzzled when access to modern-day tech is suddenly unavailable. Here’s how to set up internet and put those pieces back together.
Reasons why internet lines can bypass a new home
If you are considering moving, be conscious of several scenarios so you’re not caught off guard. Below are three common situations that can leave homeowners navigating the long and winding road to get service.
You have a newly built home
You have a newly-built house in an existing community, but no internet. The surrounding neighbors have internet, but the lines were not extended to the new property. Typically, completing this part of the construction is the responsibility of the contractors. A private homebuilder can experience obstacles if they do not have a contractor lobbying on their behalf.
Sometimes, your ISP may make things difficult like it was for this Xfinity customer. They were repeatedly told that their newly-built home was already serviceable, but when technicians came to the home they were unable to install the internet because of necessary construction. After many more delays and unanswered questions, the customer’s home still hadn’t undergone the construction work they were promised, and at this point had been without internet for months. On the other hand, their neighbor has internet successfully installed that very month.
Your suburb or neighborhood has seen rapid growth
A new or pre-existing home cannot get internet because the ports are full. This scenario can happen in suburbs that experienced rapid growth. Internet service that uses digital subscriber lines, also called DSL, has a dedicated hook-up for each home. If there are more homes than ports, service to new subscribers is limited. Even a home that had internet access in the past may not be able to get new service if there was a gap in service and the port was claimed by another customer in the interim. Plus, as many companies transition to fiber-optic lines, they no longer update their DSL networks.
You live in an area lacking infrastructure
Building a new house in an unincorporated or rural area can make new internet installation difficult. Just a few miles can make a big difference on getting internet service. A resident who builds on the edge of town might be liable for the cost of extending lines to the property, even if homes one or two miles away have service. This short distance can cost thousands to upgrade.
Who to contact to get internet access
There are several ways to resolve this dilemma. A successful internet-seeker should be diligent and informed. Start with these three options to get on your way to a wired home.
Your local public utility commission
First, contact your local public utility commission. Find your state’s government website and get in touch with them for specific information on your state or county’s protocols. The utility commission can also explain what your rights as a resident are in regard to what cost or construction you are liable for. It helps to be armed with this info before speaking with the ISP.
Contact the ISP that provides service in your area. Not sure who that is? Check your address on Allconnect.com or ask the closest neighbor who they use. If both of those methods aren’t getting results, check with the closest local business. Gas stations or any shop that processes credit cards will have an internet provider. You will want to contact customer service, especially if you’ve already contacted the sales department and they said your home was not in the service area.
Triple-check the address with all representatives, and again get confirmation of service in writing. With over 131 million households in the U.S., databases can quickly become outdated. Unfortunately, even the internet providers themselves can get their wires crossed when figuring out where they do and do not provide service.
Some ISPs, like Windstream for example, also specifically work with builders to install internet at your new build, so make sure to check to find out if this is an option for you.
Your ISP’s local branch
Go to a local office. If your ISP has a local branch near you, your best bet could be simply talking to someone in person. Sometimes, the barrier to internet connectivity can be quirky, one-off issues that a person in a call center hundreds of miles away does not have the tools to resolve. For instance, AT&T lets customers open an “address validation” case if they believe they should be able to receive service. Then a local engineer will go to the physical address to inspect if a connection is possible.
Verify serviceability with your ISP before moving
It can seem a little premature to ask about internet before making an offer on a home. Still, if a certain internet speed and data plan is crucial to your job or lifestyle, get verification of service in writing before signing on the dotted line.
Be cautious of companies who have been known to give inaccurate info about internet accessibility, like this gentleman who was told multiple times that a certain provider would service his new home, only to find that was not the case. It’s also possible that availability may change by the time you move in.
How to get temporary internet access
If you find out your new home doesn’t currently have internet access, there are a few temporary options you can try.
A hotspot is a great temporary internet option because you can use it anywhere. Think of a hotspot as a mini router – it connects a cellular network to your device. You can either buy a portable hotspot or access one on your phone. Some providers that sell portable hotspots include T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, but you can always check Amazon or your local tech store, too.
Public Wi-Fi is a bit less convenient than a mobile or portable hotspot, but still a solid option if you need a reliable internet connection for a busy work day. Coffee shops, Cafés and Co-Work spaces all have strong public internet access that is open for public use.
How does this affect you?
The bottom line is that providers choose where to run lines for internet access based on population density. If you love to live on the outskirts, you can and will be responsible for the cost to get on the grid. For some, this investment is feasible and worth it, like this farmer who threw down $42,000 to get fiber-optic installed at his home. And in the long run, that setup was a steal compared to the over $300,000 quote from the local DSL provider. The quality of a fiber-optic connection far outweighs other forms of broadband, and its longevity and return on investment will stretch far into the future.
If you’re moving into a newly-built home, make sure first to check if internet service is available at your location. If it’s not, check with your local utility commission and internet service providers in your area. You can also use mobile or portable hotspots as well as public Wi-Fi for temporary internet access.
Need even more help getting hooked up? Check out our Resource Center for other inside information on the internet and your smart home needs.
Written by:Camryn Smith
Camryn Smith is an Associate Writer with Allconnect.com. She specializes in writing about the broadband industry and helping consumers navigate complex internet service purchasing decisions…. Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content