We'd all like to find a cheaper broadband service, but changing provider can be a hassle. PC Advisor explains the secrets behind a smooth switch.

This article appears in the November 06 issue of PC Advisor, onsale now in all good newsagents.

In theory it should never be difficult to switch ISP; in practice it can prove frustrating. To switch allegiance, you need your current provider to relinquish control and give the new supplier permission to take over. This takes the form of a MAC (migration authorisation code) – and it's the ISP you've dumped that issues it. Unsurprisingly, not all are quick to oblige. Some aren't even signed up to the voluntary charter saying they will do so.

There are two types of service provision: Datastream and IPStream. Which one your ISP uses depends on whether they purchase bandwidth from BT – most ADSL providers still do – and, if so, whether they obtain it from BT Retail or BT Wholesale. Datastream services were not covered by the MAC migration scheme.

Changing from Datastream to IPStream – where the ISP has installed its own ADSL hardware in an exchange, circumventing BT’s fixed costs – complicates things.

Despite this, when Ofcom looked into how effective processes for switching provider were, it found: "In the majority of cases these processes are effective and ensure that customers do not experience problems." Most PC Advisor readers who had made the switch found it easy.

However, it is clear from your comments that many of you sidestepped the MAC issue by changing from an ADSL connection to a cable-based one or, in a handful of cases, vice versa. Comments such as "I am with NTL and came from BT, which meant the package was just on" and "Being cable broadband, it does not cause issues if you were previously on an ADSL connection" were typical.

For those of you who did find the switchover a trial, lack of technical expertise on the part of providers and a lack of response to your requests for help were all too frequent.

However, judging by the number of complaints we had in the past about the traumas of changing ISP and how many more of you are now reporting relatively painfree transfers, things have already improved.

"During the changeover I was offline for just two hours. The ISP was very helpful," said one reader. Another reported: "I got my MAC from Freedom2Surf; 10 days later I was connected to my new provider with no down time."

One reader highlighted exactly how much the migration story has moved on. "I gave a month’s notice to my previous provider and that was it. A provider I used before took about six months to terminate my account," he said.

PCA has heard from very few readers telling us they regret making the move. Of course, you may need to stay with your current provider a little longer so as not to incur penalties for calling time too early – and some require as much as three months' notice. But once you've made the move, we're sure you won't look back.

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