If you start to notice your internet speed dropping, online videos appearing in low resolution, online gaming becoming laggy, or sites taking a long time to load, you might start to wonder: “am I being throttled?” Internet throttling is when your internet service provider (ISP) actually takes action to slow down your internet speeds for high-bandwidth activities like streaming, downloading, or playing games. It can be a very annoying thing to deal with, but there are ways around it.
In short: Am I being throttled?
You might have suspicions about internet throttling, but you’ll need to run a simple three-step test to see if your internet connection is actually being throttled by your internet service provider.
Step 1. Run an online speed test
The first step to identify internet throttling from internet service providers is to run a simple online speed test using one of the many free speed test tools available online. This test will tell you your current download and upload speeds.
Step 2. Connect to a reputable Virtual Private Network (VPN)
The next step of identifying possible ISP throttling from your internet provider is to connect to a VPN. The VPN will encrypt your internet connection and reroute it via a secure server in a different location, preventing your internet service provider from monitoring your online activities and affecting your internet speeds.
Step 3. Run the speed test again
Once the VPN connection has been established, run the speed test again to check for data throttling. If the results show that your internet speed has improved, it’s highly likely that you’re dealing with a case of internet throttling on behalf of your internet providers.
Why do ISPs intentionally slow down internet connection?
The simple answer to this question is that internet service providers engage in data throttling to save money. The more data people use, the greater the costs become for internet providers. So, as their networks expand and their number of users grows, they use ISP throttling as a money-saving measure.
ISPs also have a habit of using ISP throttling in certain circumstances or at certain times:
- During peak hours
- When you’re playing online video games
- When you’re streaming videos
- When you’re downloading large files
In a way, ISPs throttle internet connections as a kind of punishment for users who are using “too much” data. This may sound extreme, but it’s a fair explanation for why they do it. It can also be a marketing method to push you towards upgrading to a better plan with faster speeds and no data limit.
How do you stop throttling?
So now we know why many ISPs generally throttle users, but what can you do about it and how do you stop data throttling? Well, there’s one clear and simple solution: use a VPN. A VPN is the best option available for people who are dealing with slower speeds and who want to fix internet throttling in their own homes.
So how do you get started? All it takes to stop ISP throttling and move into the internet fast lanes is a few simple steps:
- Download a VPN to your device.
- Create your account and sign in.
- Connect to a server location of your choosing.
- Enjoy the internet and all of your favorite online services with no more lag.
How does a VPN stop throttling?
Essentially, a VPN works by encrypting your internet traffic. This means that it secures and hides your connections when your computer or other devices sends out signals to servers and locations around the world.
Since your internet traffic connections are hidden or masked by the VPN, your ISP won’t be able to read those connections and monitor your data usage. In other words, they won’t be able to see if you’re downloading, playing games, streaming movies, and so on.
ISPs need to be able to clearly see what you’re doing in order to throttle connections. If they can’t read your internet information, then throttling your internet is no longer an option for them.
However, it’s worth noting that VPNs are not able to solve slow internet issues that are caused by other factors aside from selective throttling, such as high traffic congestion on the network or a data cap that might be enforced in the fine print of your internet package.
The risks of free VPNs
It might be tempting to pick a free VPN to help with slow internet speed issues. However, free VPNs are unlikely to offer much help. They can have security weaknesses and often come with their own data caps to force users into upgrading to a paid or premium plan. They often have weak network infrastructure too.
It’s important to remember that free VPNs have to make money somehow. They can do this in various ways, such as by selling user data, making them less safe, or by running ads, which can be infuriating to deal with. They might also simply have low standards of performance that are designed to funnel their users towards a paid plan.
This is why free VPNs tend to be slower and lower-performing in general than paid ones, and it’s also why a lot of users simply don’t trust them. The whole point of a VPN is to protect your privacy and help you enjoy better and safer online connections, but free VPNs often fail to adhere to these standards. To truly get more speed from your wireless or cable internet, you need a proper VPN with high-speed infrastructure.
Does bandwidth throttling affect mobile data?
Yes, if an ISP is selectively throttling you, your mobile data on Android and iOS devices can also be at risk. Aside from the regular ISP reasons for slowing down your connection, this kind of throttling is used to push mobile users into getting a plan that offers higher data caps.
Is data throttling illegal?
Not necessarily. It mostly depends on where you live, as countries have different rules and laws on things like throttling your internet. In the US, since the death of Net Neutrality back in 2017, it has been legal for ISPs to throttle data. Meanwhile, in Singapore, throttling is illegal, but ISPs reportedly still do it.
What’s more, data throttling can be quite hard to catch and prove, so lots of ISPs feel that they can get away with it to save their own profits without any real risks. They don’t even need to inform customers or an account holder when engaging in throttling.
It can be very sneaky when an ISP directly throttles your connection. They may slow down specific websites or activities, but the user might not notice any real change in the results of certain speed tests.
So, if you wanted to actually prove that your ISP is throttling you and take action against them, you may struggle to get any real evidence together, and it would be very easy for the company to simply deny the throttling and claim that they don’t engage in throttling at all.
Are there justifiable cases of internet throttling?
Yes, there are certain explanations that can be given to justify the use of throttling. For example, ISPs might want to slow down the speeds of certain users who are accessing questionable sites or engaging in suspicious or illegal behavior.
Yes, a VPN is the cure to internet throttling
Having your connection throttled isn’t fun. It can be really frustrating to deal with tiring loading screens, laggy gameplay, blurry streaming videos, and other issues. But, as this guide has shown, there are options available to help. You can run speed tests to get an answer and then set up a VPN to stop it. Surfshark VPN can help you enjoy the best speeds and beat throttling once and for all.