How Do I Negotiate My Cable and Internet Bills?

Negotiating cable bills takes time and preparation. Persistence and a willingness to document your request with pricing from your provider and its competitors can help you reduce your bill while still getting the services you need. You may also need to make more than one phone call to get the pricing you want and deserve.

Jeff Whelpley is the editor / author responsible for this content.
Dec 9, 2022

Paying household bills can be a constant struggle. While standard utility bills are usually fairly straightforward: You pay a specific amount per unit of gas or electricity that your household uses, cable and Internet bills are another matter. Often, bills can increase with no warning and it's not always clear what you are paying for.

Why Negotiate?

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • One day you check your credit card statement and note an extraordinarily large charge from your cable and Internet company. You double-check and realize that the low promotional rate that you had received when you started your new package has expired and now you are stuck paying nearly twice as much each month.
  • Your youngest child, an inveterate gamer, has left the household and you and your spouse are getting adjusted to living by yourselves. You chat with a good friend of yours who has been an empty-nester for the past several years and, the conversation drifts to bills. Your friend notes that since the kids have left, the family uses much less Internet data and that she and her husband were able to cut their cable bill by 30% by choosing a different bundle offered by their local cable company.
  • Your spouse's hours at work have been cut and you've had an increase in expenses since you developed a medical problem. While you are generally happy with your cable and Internet service, it is essential that you reduce your household expenses.

All three of these scenarios are commonplace and all will eventually require you to negotiate with your Internet or cable company to either reduce the level of service you receive or cut your monthly bill outright.

Negotiating Cable and Internet Bills: The Reality

Unfortunately, many consumers have found that negotiating lower cable or Internet bills can be extremely difficult. Because this industry is not regulated the same way standard utilities are, consumers are not always protected by the same level of transparency in billing practices and service costs.

In addition, telecommunications companies are notorious for employing customer service staff that actively seek to frustrate consumers. In some cases, callers become so frustrated that they stop even trying to negotiate a bill reduction. In other cases, a consumer may be persuaded by a customer service representative to choose a new bundle that has its own promotional rate, subject to an increase within a few months.

Another reason why negotiating cable and Internet bills can be difficult is that consumers often don't really understand what they are paying for. In some cases, a decent portion of the bill is state and federal taxes and fees, something that cannot be negotiated between consumer and provider. Learning how to read your bill and understanding what exactly you are paying for is an important first step in getting started with the negotiation.

Tips and Tricks for Getting Started

There are several things that you can do to help maximize your chances of success in getting your cable or Internet bill lowered:

Before Making Your Call

  • Review your service agreements and billing statements. If your bill has recently gone up, make sure you have enough billing statements to cover the period before and after the increase. Review your service agreements and billing statements so that you have an understanding of what you are paying for and what you would like to not pay for. For example, if you are paying an equipment rental fee, there's a decent chance that you can buy this equipment outright through any consumer electronics store and terminate your rental agreement with your provider.
  • Substantiate your request for lower service. The easiest way to do this is to first check out the promotional rates being offered by your current provider. You'll be able to find these rates online, or through advertising and direct mail promotions. Knowing the deals being offered to first-time customers will help you negotiate for a lower rate.
  • Check competitor pricing. This information is easily found online or through other forms of advertising.
  • Have a goal in mind. You might want to revert back to your promotional rate, the rate currently being offered to new customers, or receive a proportionate discount for a reduction in services, such as cutting cable, landline phone service, or the amount of data that comes with your plan.
  • If you have a history of paying your bill late, consider delaying your negotiation until you've established a track record of on-time payments.

At the Time of Your Call

  • Have relevant documentation in front of you. This includes advertising or direct mail pieces from your current provider or competitors that offer lower pricing than what you are currently paying, contracts, billing statements, and any previous correspondence between you and your provider about pricing.
  • Allow plenty of time for negotiations. You may have to wait to speak to a representative and once you speak to someone, it may take 30 minutes or more for your negotiations to be completed. In some cases, you may be able to request a call back from your provider, which is convenient, but you'll need to make sure that you can actually take the call.
  • Have pen and paper handy so that you can take notes during your conversation.

During Your Call

  • Be polite. The customer service representative is not your enemy. He or she is following a script and may be required to say or do certain things during a call by his or her employer.
  • Be persistent. Don't let the agent distract with irrelevant promotions that don't actually lower your bill, or dissuade you by saying a reduction is impossible when you know for a fact that people receiving the same level of service are paying far less than you.
  • Ask informed questions. When an agent tells you that it isn't possible to lower your monthly bill, point out that the company is providing new customers with a much lower price for a full year of service. Note that you are a loyal customer and that you pay your bill on time and that you feel that this should be taken into consideration.
  • End the call if frustrated or confused. Don't allow your frustration to dictate your actions during negotiations. If you need to take a break, say so, and hang up.

What to Watch Out For

Bundles with unneeded services: Cable and Internet companies typically offered bundled services at promotional pricing that is lower than just one service. If you are offered a new bundle at a discounted rate, keep in mind that the price for the package may increase significantly after the promotional period is over. Ask for the non-promotional pricing on the bundle and on the standalone service.

New promotional rates: A promotional rate is temporary. Ask about the duration of the rate as well as what you can expect after the promotional period is over.

Free movie channel offers: Agents may refuse your request for a lowered rate but, as a concession, offer a free trial subscription to a movie channel. Accept this if you wish, but keep in mind that you'll be billed for the movie channel if you don't cancel it before the end of the trial period.

What Should I do if my Call is Unsuccessful?

If you get off the phone with your cable or Internet provider and did not get the lower rate that you wanted, take a bit of time to rest and reflect before re-contacting your provider.

Once you've had a chance to clear your head, prepare for another call. Look over the documentation you assembled before your first effort at negotiations. You might be able to supplement it with additional information that could persuade the representative to offer you a better deal.

If calling doesn't work, try your provider's live-chat option. An alternative is to call out your provider on social media: If you have a lot of friends or followers, you might find that your provider will be willing to work with you.

In situations where you truly feel that you are being overcharged, you may wish to take your complaint to the government commission in your area that regulates cable or Internet providers. File a complaint and let your provider know that you have done so. This is a slow approach, but it might be very effective and improve cable bills for everyone in your area, not just you.

Should I Threaten to Cancel?

At some point, you may find yourself becoming so frustrated that you simply want to end your relationship with your provider and move on to another company. If you are living in an area where you have multiple providers, this certainly can be an option, particularly if your provider is being unreasonable.

You should be aware, however, that threatening to cancel cable/Internet service is also a negotiating technique that is well-known to providers. In most cases, if you do ask to cancel your service, you will be redirected to someone known as a "retention specialist." This is a customer service agent who is trained to persuade you to stay with your current provider.

In some cases, a retention specialist may be empowered to offer you what is legitimately a better deal on your current package. In other cases, he or she simply won't listen to you and will attempt to wear you down so that you either hang up the phone and have to start the cancellation process all over again, or will try to get you to give up on canceling your service and stay with your current package or a package that offers minimal savings.

For this reason, many consumer advocates believe that there are better approaches than threatening a cancellation when all you want to do is lower your bill. If you do decide to go the cancellation route, here are some tips that can shorten your time on the phone and help you avoid unnecessary costs and charges:

Don't Lead with Cable TV Discontinuation

Threatening to cancel just your cable television service is unlikely to result in a successful bill reduction. This is because the general trend is toward cutting cable in favor of streaming services. Providers expect people to cut their cable, so they are not going to make concessions for those who asked to discontinue their service.

If you have your telephone or Internet service through your cable company, threaten to cancel one of these services, preferably the Internet. Internet service is the pain point for providers, so threatening to cut this service may motivate the retention specialist to offer you a better deal.

Reluctant Retention Specialists

There have been cases in which consumers have found themselves on the phone for an hour or more trying to persuade a retention specialist to simply discontinue their service. In some cases, you may be better off hanging up and calling back within a few days to inform your provider that you are moving out of the country or, at the very least, to an area not served by your provider

Verify Equipment Return Process

if you are able to successfully reduce your bill by eliminating certain services or by purchasing your own modem or router, you'll still need to return equipment to your cable company. Failure to do so can result in large charges for the equipment as well as additional fees.

Ask the customer service representative what you need to do to return the equipment: the agent may be able to send you a prepaid mailing label via email so that you can easily ship your equipment back to the company. You may also be able to drop off equipment at your provider's local office. In all cases, keep track of your return via tracking numbers or by getting a receipt from your provider after dropping the equipment off.

Monitor Credit Card Charges and Billing Statements

After you cancel or change your service, ask the representative for a cancellation number and verify the date of service cancellation. Write this information down and keep track of it: You'll need to check your billing statements to ensure that you have not been overcharged.

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Jeff truly believes that all customers deserve good service. He’s been building tools, inventing phone tree hacks and helping customers since before his days at GetHuman. He's also a Google GDE and involved in the Angular community.
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