Sometimes while visiting a website, you would have observed that your internet speed has decreased significantly. But when you visit another website, it works fine. Why does it happen? Experts call this phenomenon ‘internet speed throttling or bandwidth throttling.’
There are many reasons for internet speed throttling and mostly it is done by the Internet Service Provider (ISPs). A few reasons why they can throttle internet speeds include:
- Minimizing bandwidth congestion
- Regulating network traffic
- Decreasing video streaming
- Indicating to users that data package has been used up
- Online gaming with high latency
- Too many users using the internet from your IP address
- Torrenting from multiple sources and increasingly taking more bandwidth
Am I Being Throttled? Methods to Check
There are various methods to check if your internet speed is being throttled by your ISP service. The simplest one is to test your internet speed and then match it with the speed of that site loading on your browser. Here is how:
Go to the speed test tool and run it. It will show you the current internet speed you have. For example, in the picture, we have around 12.23MBs of internet speed. This is the speed that we get from the ISP for browsing the internet.
After connecting to a VPN service like ExpressVPN, which provides a solid firewall against ISP throttling we get the following results using Stockholm servers:
The difference is pretty identical, since we are getting a better internet speed after connecting to a VPN. In fact it is 15.34 Mbps which is a clear improvement of 3.11 Mbps using the same internet connection. This is mainly because our connection was being throttled by Sky Broadband, which is our internet provider these days.
How to Stop ISP Throttling Using VPN?
Whatever VPN network you subscribe to for stopping ISP throttling, make sure to check that they have the following features available.
DNS leak protection: If the VPN service doesn’t offer DNS leak protection, meaning that your IP can get exposed and your ISP will know which sites you visited. It can then pretty much throttle your internet speed.
Kill switch: The kill switch can automatically disconnect you from the internet in case your VPN network gets turned off for some reason or the other.
No-log policy: While this one doesn’t concern your ISP directly, it can help you get a good night’s sleep. Without a no-log policy, most VPN networks can share your information with governments, spy agencies, and even advertisers.
Enhanced Security: Most VPN networks offer military-grade protection so that no hackers can eavesdrop on your communication or sniff packets. Make sure to check AES 256-bit encryption when buying a VPN service.
Money-Back Guarantee: Make sure to check that the VPN you want to subscribe to offers a complete money-back guarantee. This will allow you to check if the VPN fulfills your purpose of subscribing to it in the first place.
Number of Servers: More VPN servers would allow you to get more bandwidth for your connection. In simple terms, more servers mean more speed for browsing websites and streaming video content
Server Locations: Similarly, check the number of locations a VPN service offers. Since you will be streaming content of most services based in the US, UK, and Europe, make sure that the VPN network has servers at these locations.
Secure VPNs to Stop ISP Throttling
NordVPN: NordVPN comes with over 5,000+ servers and most of its servers are located in the USA. It also offers a kill switch, no-log policy, DNS leak protection, and obfuscated servers. With obfuscated servers, you can even connect to websites that have blocked VPN servers and their IP addresses. NordVPN has a mid-level price range and you will get more benefit by subscribing to its 2-year VPN package.
Surfshark: Surfshark offers over 1,000 servers in 60+ countries. It has over 80 servers in the USA alone making it a lucrative option for streaming online content on Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. It protects you from internet speed throttling by providing you split tunneling, DNS leak protection, kill switch, OpenVPN and PPTP protocols for added security. Surfshark is also a mid-range VPN service and you can get the most benefit if you subscribe to the 2-year VPN package. It offers better support than other paid VPN services.
CyberGhost: CyberGhost is another great VPN service that you can use to stop ISPs from throttling your internet speed. The CyberGhost VPN offers some privacy-focused features such as IP masking, DNS leak protection, No-log policy, connection encryption, restricted content access, malware blocking, and ad blocking. Moreover, it offers a free trial so that you can test the service before actually buying it. Just like the other VPNs mentioned, CyberGhost yearly subscription service will be best suited for users.
ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN offers a vast network of 3,000+ servers across 94 countries. The company protects internet traffic with the assistance of DNS servers. The high-end encryption prevents attacks from even the most advanced attacks to snoop on your activities. The split-tunneling system enables users to control the choice of apps that utilize the VPN. This can help the user manage the traffic more efficiently with their regular internet connection.
Can I Bypass ISP throttling without a VPN?
The answer to the question ‘can a VPN bypass isp throttling’ is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. There have been cases where you can bypass internet speed throttling without the use of a VPN service. Here is what you will need to do.
- Renegotiate your internet package: You can renegotiate your package with the ISP by asking them to provide you a minimum bandwidth for watching/streaming content.
- Create a Proxy Server: You can set up your proxy server that will reroute traffic from the proxy to the website. The ISP will have only access to that proxy server. So the provider will think that you are connected to a specific server. In reality, you will be using that proxy to connect to the actual website you intend to visit. However, this process may not always work because ISPs are smart.
- Upgrade Your Internet Package: Last resort is to upgrade your internet package. You cannot always get the best of both worlds. If you want to stop your ISP from throttling your internet speeds, then it is better to upgrade your internet package. This will give you more room to stream video content, get uninterrupted gaming experience, or download torrents.
What is ISP Bandwidth Throttling?
If you are getting a direct fiber connection from the ISP provider, then only your ISP can throttle internet speeds. However, if you are getting a connection from a middleman such as a network operator, they can also throttle your internet speeds without your ISP knowing about it.
Depending on the nature of speed throttling, it will directly impact your day-to-day tasks. If the internet speed is throttled, you will probably experience slow speed and all websites will load slowly. However, if the ISP has imposed site-specific throttling, then you will experience slow speeds on a particular website.
For example, let’s say you visit YouTube. Your internet speed is smooth when you browse all other websites. But as soon as you start YouTube videos, the speed decreases and the endless cycle of video buffering starts. This is because your ISP has throttled video buffering speed on YouTube.
Similarly, the ISPs can throttle torrenting speed, social media video streaming, and use of other websites that you visit most often.
Few years ago a paper named, “A Large-Scale Analysis of Deployed Traffic Differentiation Practices” showed that major services like YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, NBC Sports and others are prone to throttling by their ISPs.
What are Different Types of Internet Throttling?
There are two ways in which ISPs can throttle the speed of a user’s connection. The two ways are:
In bandwidth capping, the ISP prevents the individuals from consuming the transmission capacity of the server. A lower cap means reduced bandwidth for the user. It is a defensive mechanism and usually used when users are on a shared connection and actively using server resources.
On the other hand, ISP throttling is the process of reducing or throttling internet speed. It means the server will accept fewer data at a time and increase packet delay. Throttling also helps ISPs reduce server buffering and keep a constant flow of traffic.
Here is a list of countries with the highest ratio of ISP throttling.
Cuba: In Cuba, governments throttle internet speeds to prevent the spread of information.
EU: Most European countries throttle traffic to keep a constant flow of traffic. It helps with server management.
US: Many private internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon are known for server throttling.
Singapore: Singapore passed the net neutrality bill in 2011. Still many ISPs in Singapore throttle internet speeds even after the warnings from governments.
The paper discussed earlier also suggests country-wise findings with respect to the rate at which the service gets throttled.
Is it Illegal to Throttle Internet Speed? What Do FCC & FTC Say About it?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for controlling the internet companies. While, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) maintains control over internet bandwidth. Also, FTC oversees all industries and passes acts to control mishaps. Let’s see what is FTC’s ruling on internet speed throttling by ISPS.
FTC has given a green light to ISPs to block as many applications and as many times as they want. They just have to disclose all that information to the government as and when the government requests it from them.
“Under Section 5 of the FTC Act, we may prosecute unfair or deceptive acts or practices… Simply stated, we have a strong interest in ensuring that companies stand by their promises to consumers,” FTC Chairman Joseph Simons notes.
FTC Chairman however clearly mentions that the citizens can easily complain to the government about their ISP provider if they are unjustly blocking any website. In such a case, the ISP will have to provide a genuine reason for blocking the content. If not, it will be fined by the government and it may lose its license.
Reasons: Why does ISP Throttle Bandwidth Data?
The above mentioned statement clearly says that internet throttling by the ISPs is legal in government books. ISPs can offer these as the reasons for throttling internet speeds of its users.
- Traffic congestion
- Suspecting behavior
- Lack of subscription
- Overhauling server usage
- Clogging server data
- More buffering
- Packets getting stuck
- Centralized server systems
But you can also complain to the government if you think that ISPs are illegally throttling the server bandwidth. The case will then be determined by the government. Even if you may not get to win the case, it will lead to more debate on net neutrality and ISP traffic throttling.
If you want to know the solution of ‘how to stop data throttling’? VPNs offer a plausible solution to bypass ISP throttling.
We hope that you are now clear about what ISP internet throttling is, how it can affect your daily internet use, and what you can do about it.
Moreover, we have also provided information about the legality of ISP throttling and why you should use a VPN service as your last resort to tackle the internet throttling problem. If you still have any pending questions that we didn’t answer in this write-up, feel free to ask them in the comments below.