Changing your email address is hard and keeping your ISP-provided email is nearly impossible. I'll look at making this the last change that you'll ever need.
I’m moving and my new home will have a new ISP. I’ve had my @att.net email address for years, but AT&T doesn’t serve my new location. My new ISP will be Comcast. How do I keep my @att.net email address? I really don’t want to have to change.
You’re probably going to have to change.
I’ll throw out one idea that might let you avoid it if your old ISP allows it, but a) most probably don’t and b) you’re not going to like it either.
Instead, I’ll describe what’s going on and what you should do to make this the first and last time that you need to change your email address.
Your Email: you@AnExampleIsp.com
The default situation that most people find themselves in when they sign up with an ISP is that they’re given an email address that consists of two parts:
- Some kind of identifier that is unique to you at this ISP. This is the “leo” in something like “leo@AnExampleIsp.com”.
- A domain that is owned and operated by that ISP. Typically, this is the ISP’s own domain. For example, the “AnExampleIsp.com” in “leo@AnExampleIsp.com”.
It’s that last one that is important here. If you’re with AT&T, it’s probably @att.net. With Verizon, it’s @verizon.net. With Comcast, it’s @comcast.net, and so on.
The key here is that your email address is tied to your ISP.
If you leave your ISP, your email address with that ISP goes away.
ISPs provide services for their (paying) customers
As a customer of an ISP, you’re paying them and, in return, they provide internet connectivity and the infrastructure to support, maintain, and deal with the email addresses associated with your account. They’re expending resources in the form of infrastructure, servers, maintenance, and support.
When you leave, you stop paying. Rather than recovering the cost of operations from your monthly payment, it would end up costing them if they were to keep supporting you in any way.
There’s just no incentive for them to do that. There’s no reason for them to maintain an email address – whether it’s the whole account or simply forwarding email that it receives – for someone who is no longer their customer.
The one idea that I mentioned that you probably wouldn’t like is very simple:
I don’t mean don’t move; move wherever you like. Set up your new ISP and get your internet connectivity in whatever way you need to in your new home.
Just don’t leave your old ISP.
If they allow it, figure out the minimum payment plan that they might offer in order to keep your email account active. Make sure that they allow it to be accessed from your new location and you’re set.
As I mentioned, the down side is that not all ISPs will allow someone out of their service area to maintain an account and you may end up paying for two ISPs: your new one to get your connection to the internet and your old one to keep your old email account alive.
Bite the bullet and change, but let’s do it in so you only need to change it once.
Option one: buy your own domain
This is really the only way to ensure that you never need to change your email address again.
Go to a domain registrar (I’m partial to SimpleURL and then find and purchase an available domain name. Yes, most of the “cool” names are taken, but there are still many options. Your last name might be available or perhaps a variation of your last name: in my case, perhaps something like TheNotenbooms.com would make for a great email domain name. This is a fine time to get creative, within reason. Remember, you’ll be telling all of your contacts to use this domain for your email from now on.
I’ll use YourVeryOwnDomainName.com as my example of your new domain and you@YourVeryOwnDomainName.com as an example of your email address.
When you register your domain name, you’ll typically be given the option of choosing email services to be provided along with it, perhaps at an extra cost:
- Nothing. You’ll need to set up DNS and arrange for whatever email processing that you want to have happen elsewhere.
- Forwarding. In this case, you define an email address (you@YourVeryOwnDomainName.com) and indicate that all of the email that is sent to it should be forwarded to another email address. You could have it sent to your new email address at your new ISP or you could have it forwarded to one of the free email services. It actually doesn’t matter that much; if you ever want to change your ISP or free email service, you simply come back to your domain registration and change the email address that you@YourVeryOwnDomainName.com is forwarded to; no one else has to know or care.
- Hosting. This is typically an extra cost option; with email hosting, your registrar actually provides the email server and services that you would use to send and receive your email, much like your ISP has in the past. Of course, the difference is that it doesn’t matter who your ISP is. You access your email on your domain directly from the registrar’s servers.
Which approach is appropriate for you will vary based on your own needs and desires.
If I was forced to make a blanket recommendation, I’d say: get a Gmail account and use the second option to forward your you@YourVeryOwnDomainName.com email to your Gmail account. Configure Gmail to send as you@YourVeryOwnDomainName.com and then use Gmail as your email interface. If you ever need to change your Gmail account or change from Gmail to another provider, you’d simply change the email address that you@YourVeryOwnDomainName.com is being forwarded to.
Regardless of how you do it, you@YourVeryOwnDomainName.com is now your email address for as long as you choose to own the domain. It’ll be yours no matter what ISP you use or what email service you might choose to forward it to.
Option two: use an ISP-independent email service.
If changing ISPs is what causes your email address to change, then one obvious alternative is to choose an email service that’s not related to your ISP.
Like one of the free email services, such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or others.
And yes, that’s a fine approach with one huge “gotcha”.
What if you need to change that account?
What if your email account is hacked and cannot be recovered? What if the service becomes unreliable to the point you can’t use it? What if you get mistakenly booted? What if … who knows?
In all of those cases, you can certainly get a new email account, but that’ll just put you back to where you started: your email address will change when you get a new account.
Which is exactly what we’ve been trying to avoid all along.
Yes, with proper security, good behavior and the selection of a good email service (I’d choose Gmail in the free mail category), you can minimize the risks of ever having to change your email service.
But you can’t eliminate it.
As you can probably tell by now, if changing your email address is a problem for you, I strongly recommend that you change it exactly once; change it to an email address on a domain that you own that can then be yours for as long as
you choose to own the domain.
Free email services are viable alternatives if you can do what you need to do to minimize the risk of ever needing to change again.
Once you have a domain name of your own, you can set up your own email addresses.