This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Professional installation has always been the inconvenient but necessary final step in getting connected. Aside from waiting around for the technician to arrive (hopefully sometime within that four hour window), having a stranger walk in and around your home can be unnerving, especially as many of us have prioritized social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions. On top of that, it’s probable that the whole experience will add a sizable fee to your initial costs.
Fortunately, many of the top internet providers now offer self-installation to bypass or at least lessen the hassle that comes with installation. Best of all, it’s typically not that difficult to do.
Self-installation isn’t for everyone, however, so be sure to read through the pros and cons of the process below. If you decide self-installation is the way to go, I’ve listed general tips on how best to do it, followed by a rundown of self-installation details for many popular ISPs.
Before I get into weighing the pros and cons of installing your internet yourself, I should start by saying that self-installation may not be an option. If you need a new line run to or within your home, you’ll want to leave that to a professional. Additionally, it could be the case that your ISP simply does not offer self-installation.
But let’s say self-install is available. Here’s why you may or may not want to consider it.
Pros of self-installing your internet
- Less or lower fees. Professional installation can inflate your initial costs by $50 to $100 or more, depending on the provider. Self-installation is often significantly cheaper (if not free).
- No waiting on a tech to show up. Self-installation allows you to set up your connection on your time without having to wait around for a technician. You may have to wait for the self-install kit to arrive in the mail, but once you’ve got it, you can usually get right to setting up your service on your own schedule.
- Fewer health risks of exposure. I’m confident that ISPs and technicians take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading viruses, namely COVID-19, but anytime a stranger is in your home — and one whose job is to visit other homes throughout the day — it’s understandable to be concerned about the potential health risks.
Cons of self-installing your internet
- It’s all up to you. There’s typically not much to self-installation, but you’ll need a bit of technical knowledge to complete the job. Any problems you encounter along the way may require troubleshooting online (if you have access to an internet connection) or calling tech support.
- Network optimization. Technicians are experienced professionals, so they’ll know where to set up your equipment and how to get the best signal throughout your home. It’s possible to do this on your own, of course, but it might also take some trial and error to get it right.
- Waiting for equipment. Most ISPs will send your equipment in the mail and that could take a few days to arrive. Others may have brick-and-mortars where you pick up the equipment in person. Either way, it’s possible self-installation could make you wait longer than a professional install would take.
1. Identify where to place your modem/router.
2. Plug in your modem, and then plug in the router (if they’re separate devices).
3. Activate your internet service, if necessary.
4. Set up your Wi-Fi network.
OK, you’re eligible to self-install your internet and have decided the savings and convenience are too good to pass up. What’s next?
After receiving your self-install kit — a modem and router or a single modem/router gateway device, any necessary cables and step-by-step instructions — the first thing you’ll want to do is pick the best place to set up your equipment.
The type of internet you have could determine where to plug in your modem. You’ll need access to a phone jack for DSL internet or a coaxial cable outlet for cable internet service. Fiber internet is a little different in that there will likely only be one network terminal in your home. They can be a bit larger than phone or cable wall plates, and as such are often located in less conspicuous places, such as in the garage or, like mine, tucked away in a coat closet.
Try to position your router in a central location in your home, preferably atop a bookshelf or other high ledge to maximize signal distance and strength. After you’ve identified a good spot for your equipment, it’s time to plug it in.
Start by plugging your modem into the proper internet outlet. The required cable (whether that’s a phone line, coaxial cable or Ethernet cord) should be included with your install kit. If you have a separate modem and router, go ahead and connect the modem to your router using an Ethernet cord. Next, plug in the power cord(s), turn the device(s) on and give it five minutes or so to boot up.
Possibly. Check the blinking lights on the front of your modem/router. If the lights are green or blue and everything looks to be operational, you’re ready to set up a Wi-Fi connection. On the other hand, if you notice lingering red or orange lights or lights that keep blinking, it may be because your service has not yet been activated. To activate your service, you may need to access your account online or call your internet service provider.
When your equipment is displaying a series of green or blue lights, depending on the device (check whatever instructions your ISP sent you with the kit for guidance here), you are officially connected to the internet. You can plug your computer directly into the modem to test your internet connection, but what you’ll probably want to do is set up your Wi-Fi network so you can connect wirelessly.
Each router manufacturer and internet service provider is a little different, but you should be able to create your Wi-Fi network name and password using an app. If no app is available, here’s how to access your router settings and update your network.
Once you’ve got internet access and a Wi-Fi signal beaming throughout your home, the installation is complete. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on a job well done before attempting to connect all your streaming sticks, gaming consoles, phones and other Wi-Fi devices to the network.
The process of self-installing your internet is basically the same with any provider and connection type, but the exact cost and details may vary. Here’s a look at what to expect from the largest ISPs. If your provider is not listed below, it may be because the provider does not offer self-installation.
Jump to your provider
Self-installation is available with AT&T’s DSL-based and fiber-optic internet services at no extra cost for initial savings of around $50, so long as your address is already wired for service.
For both services, AT&T will send you an install kit in the mail prior to your activation date that includes a gateway router, a green data cable and a yellow ethernet cable along with a power cord.
To set up your internet, start by plugging the green cable into the back of the gateway device, then plug the other end into the wall jack or terminal. Power on the device and allow one to five minutes for it to boot.
If you have already registered your account and equipment online, your internet connection should be immediately activated. Otherwise, you may have to access your account online or call customer service to activate your internet service.
Note: AT&T recommends you do not attempt to install your equipment early or before 2 p.m. local time on the activation date.
View the AT&T internet self-installation guide.
Astound, formerly known as RCN in many locations, offers cable internet, meaning you will be plugging the modem into a coax cable outlet using a coaxial cable. Self-installation is free, which will save you around $80, but there may still be an account activation fee of $10.
In addition to your modem and necessary cables, your Astound self-install kit will come with a MoCA filter, which the provider stresses “must be installed” by plugging it directly into the cable outlet. Then, attach one end of the provided coax cable into the MoCA filter and the other end to the modem.
Plug the power cord into the back of the modem and into a power outlet, then turn the modem on and give it 30 seconds to boot.
Once your modem is installed, call 1-800-427-8686 and follow the prompts to activate your modem. After activation is complete, unplug the modem, wait 30 seconds and plug it back in. Installation is now complete.
View the Astound internet self installation guide.
Self-installation with CenturyLink is free with DSL and fiber services, which will save you around $99 in installation costs. Customers could get one of two modems, a C4000 series modem/router or a “tower modem,” but the installation process is essentially the same.
With either setup, your equipment will arrive on or before your service activation date. On said activation date, CenturyLink says your line should be active no later than 7 p.m. local time, so you may want to wait until later in the afternoon to attempt your installation.
Both modems have a green port for DSL service, a yellow and/or white Ethernet port for fiber connections and to connect a computer, and a black port for your power supply. Connect all applicable cords and turn the modem on.
After your modem is up and running, you’ll need to activate your service using the My CenturyLink app and the Install my New Modem section, or by plugging a computer into the modem and typing http://connect.centurylink.com. Follow the instructions to activate your service, check the modem for green lights and then move on to setting up your Wi-Fi network.
View the CenturyLink installation self-installation guide.
Self-installation is free with Cox, and customers have the option of receiving their equipment in the mail or picking it up at a local Cox store.
Cox advises the first step to your self-installation is downloading the Cox app. Sign in with your Cox account credentials and follow the instructions under Start Easy Connect. You’ll have Cox’s virtual assistant, Oliver, to guide you through the process which should be little more than plugging in the necessary cables and turning the modem on.
View the Cox internet self-installation guide.
Frontier offers free self-installation with its Frontier Fiber and Frontier Internet (DSL) services. Frontier advises to attempt your installation on the day service is scheduled to start or the next day.
For Frontier Fiber, your router may plug into a coaxial or Ethernet jack. If your equipment came with coaxial cables and a MoCA adapter, you will need to connect the provided splitter and adapter to the line from the wall jack to the router, as shown in the Frontier Fiber installation guide. For connections using an Ethernet cable, connect the cable from the jack to the red ONT port on the back of the router. Plug the power cord in and turn the router on to receive internet service.
For Frontier Internet, you will use the green phone cable provided in your install kit to connect your router to a phone jack and the green port on the back of your router. Plug in the power cord and turn the device on. Allow the device to boot. Once you see the blue light, your internet is working and ready for use.
View the Frontier internet self-installation guide.
Google Fiber charges no installation fee (though a $300 construction fee may apply), so self-installing your Google Fiber equipment won’t necessarily save you any money, but it could save you some time.
Start by locating the Google Fiber jack in your home. If you need help, here’s how to find it. Use the Ethernet cable provided in your install kit to connect the Google Fiber jack to the network box. The light on the Google Fiber jack may be red for up to 15 minutes before turning blue.
Once the light on the Google Fiber jack turns blue, plug the power cable into the back of the network box and into a wall outlet. Like the light on the Google Fiber jack, the light on the network box may be red for up to 15 minutes. When the light turns blue, your internet service is working and you can begin setting up your Wi-Fi network.
View the Google Fiber internet self-installation guide.
Kinetic by Windstream
Before you can begin your self-installation, a technician will come to your home to ensure you have the proper outdoor wiring. You do not need to be home when the technician comes.
After the technician verifies serviceability, you will be given an activation date, which is when you can install your equipment and begin service. You will receive your install kit in three to five business days after getting your activation date. Follow the included step-by-step instructions provided in the installation kit to connect your modem and configure your Wi-Fi network.
Kinetic advises the total installation time will take 30 to 60 minutes. If you encounter any issues, call Windstream Technical Assistance at 1-877-449-5707.
View the Kinetic internet self-installation guide.
Mediacom charges a $110 fee for professional installation, but that fee is waived for customers who order online. Still, if you’d prefer to self-install your equipment, you can opt to do so and receive your equipment by mail or pick it up at a local Mediacom store.
Installation instructions are fairly straightforward: plug your modem into a coax outlet, plug in the power cord and start it up. You’ll then need to activate your service by plugging in a computer to the modem using an Ethernet cable. An activation screen should immediately prompt on your computer. Follow the instructions to activate your service. A $10 activation fee may apply.
View the Mediacom internet self-installation guide.
Optimum and Suddenlink primarily use a cable internet network, so you’ll likely be connecting your modem to a coax jack using the coaxial cable provided in your install kit. If your home is eligible for fiber service, your install kit will come with an Ethernet cable to plug into your home’s fiber terminal.
Your Optimum or Suddenlink install kit will come with a QR code which you can scan to pull up the self-install wizard on your phone. Follow the instructions to connect your equipment to the applicable outlets. Turn on the device and wait up to five minutes for it to boot up and connect to the internet.
View the Optimum internet self-installation guide. (Note: You will need to log in with your Optimum account information to access this self-installation guide.)
Spectrum states that there is currently a high demand for new equipment, so delivery of self-install kits may take “longer than expected.” Additionally, Spectrum charges a $20 self-install and activation fee.
Setup for Spectrum internet is essentially the same as any other cable internet self-installation. Connect the modem to a coax outlet using the coaxial cable provided in your install kit. Then connect the power cable and turn the modem on and allow it a few minutes to boot.
Spectrum internet uses a separate modem and router, so you will need to connect a router — either rented from Spectrum for $5 per month or provided on your own — to the modem using an Ethernet cable for Wi-Fi service.
View the Spectrum internet self-installation guide.
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet
Self-installation is the only option with T-Mobile 5G Home Internet. Thankfully, the process is simple, but if you do encounter an issue, you can reach technical support anytime at 1-844-275- 9310.
T-Mobile will send your router in the mail. To activate your internet connection, simply plug in the device and allow it a few minutes to start up. Then, using the free T-Mobile Internet app, follow the instructions to create your Wi-Fi network.
Since your T-Mobile 5G router only requires a power source to connect, feel free to try different locations in your home to optimize your connection.
View the T-Mobile 5G Home Internet FAQ page for more information.
Verizon Fios and Verizon 5G Home Internet
Professional installation for Verizon Fios can cost up to $99, but that fee is often waived if you sign up online. However, Verizon notes that self-installation is preferred as a “precaution to keep our employees and customers safe.”
You can receive your Verizon self-install kit in the mail or pick one up at a local Fios store. For specific instructions on how to self-install your equipment and activate service, you will need to login to My Verizon with your account information or use the My Fios App.
As for Verizon 5G Home Internet, self-installation is as simple as plugging in the router and testing the connection using the My Verizon app. From the app, follow the instructions under Start your 5G Home setup to complete the installation. Ensure that Bluetooth is enabled on your phone in order to connect to the router.
View the Verizon Fios internet self-installation guide or Verizon 5G Home Internet self-installation guide.
Xfinity charges a professional installation fee of $90, but you can avoid the fee by opting for self-installation when signing up for service. Xfinity will send your install kit by mail, or you can pick it up at a local Xfinity location.
To install your xFi Gateway device, follow the instructions included with your install kit, or download the Xfinity app to access the step-by-step instructions on your phone. The app will provide tips on where to install your gateway then guide you through how to connect it and power it up. The process should take “less than 10 minutes” according to the Xfinity internet installation support video.
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