What is ISP (Internet) Throttling?
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
Ever felt an interruption in the form of slow buffering when you were watching a movie on Netflix? Or download speed dropping from peak bandwidth halfway through? Bandwidth throttling may be the reason.
Throttling is a known concept in the Internet Services space, where Internet Service Providers use this to discourage downloads of large files. It’s a concept that you should know, because the slow buffering and download speed may not actually be a problem at your end.
Learn about bandwidth throttling and how VPN helps towards an unrestricted internet experience.
What is Bandwidth Throttling?
Throttling refers to variable performance in what is otherwise constant performance. Bandwidth is the speed at which data travels between two points, and in the case of internet service, or bandwidth throttling it refers to your connection speed to the internet.
If you have a 100Mbps (Mega Bits Per Second) connection, that means your effective download bandwidth is 12.5MBps (MegaBytes Per Second), as there are 8 bits in a single byte.
Why Does the ISP Throttle Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is precious. When you are using an internet plan with no restriction on how much you can download, it puts a great deal of strain on the ISP’s infrastructure. If you consume too much in a short amount of time, the ISP does not like that, especially during peak hours.
The solution to that is to put a tamper on the user’s connection to slow down bandwidth consumption and mitigate traffic congestion.
Bandwidth consumption is increasing every year exponentially as more and more devices are coming online and new streaming services are being introduced. The introduction of Disney+ last year serves as a good example how big streaming services are making headlines and inviting more subscribers. On top of that, TV manufacturers are pushing 4K TVs and the video resolution is now mainstream more than ever.
All of that equates to an increase in bandwidth and an infrastructure that is not necessarily increasing proportionally to address the demand.
Is My Internet Being Throttled?
There are some classic signs that tell if your internet speed is being throttled.
Downloads crawl after some time
You are unlikely to experience bandwidth throttling immediately. It happens when the ISP monitors activity and decides you are consuming too much bandwidth. Let’s say you are downloading a large file and the download speed reduces to a crawl after some time, it could be a sign that the ISP is throttling bandwidth.
Slow internet speed at specific hours
Notice if there is a pattern to your slow internet speeds. If it occurs during specific hours of the day like during the night, then it’s possible that bandwidth throttling is in play to reduce the congestion on the network.
How to Stop Bandwidth Throttling
Contacting your ISP to lodge a complaint is unlikely to yield results. Your best bet is VPN.
A VPN server (Virtual Private Network) connects you to its server to process your requests. Contrary to how internet traffic travels without it, VPN encrypts your data packets and tunnels them securely to its VPN server then processes them. The ISP can only see that you have connected to a VPN but not the contents of the data packets, hence – the ISP does not know what websites you are visiting, because it’s not handling the DNS requests. Data packets are encrypted and can only be decrypted at VPN server.
All you need to do is connect to a VPN server and start browsing. FastestVPN has a global network of more than 350 high-speed servers in 31+ countries. So, you can connect to a server in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and more, and hide your online activities.
How to Fix Bandwidth Throttling with VPN
- Subscribe to FastestVPN
- Download the FastestVPN app (or configure the VPN in your router)
- Launch the app then connect to any VPN server
FastestVPN supports P2P. So if your ISP has imposed restrictions on P2P networks such as torrents then connecting to the VPN server will also bypass that.
How Does Net Neutrality Affect Bandwidth Throttling?
Net Neutrality was a law by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which dictates that all kinds of internet traffic must be treated as equal by Internet Service Providers.
The law was passed during the Obama Administration in an effort to keep the internet open and free to everyone. But under President Trump’s administration and the change in FTC’s leadership, the law was repealed in 2019.
That means that ISPs can offer fast lanes to services willing to pay for it. Netflix could pay an ISP to prioritize its traffic through special lanes, while its competition suffers in the choking slow lanes. The verdict in 2019 bid farewell to the idea that every company has equal chances of succeeding; a fair playing field for startups.
The repeal of Net Neutrality gives ISPs the freedom to throttle your bandwidth in favor of their own streaming service.
You should ensure that a background download is not what’s causing the slowdown. If you are running Windows, it is possible an update is downloading or your phone is set to download new firmware automatically.
You can test bandwidth throttling by running a Speed Test online. If the results show the connection speed you have paid for then all is fine. If not, then using a VPN to hide online activities will make it difficult for ISPs to throttle bandwidth.