There are few things more frustrating than endless buffering, especially when you're trying to watch a show or game online. It could be that your bandwidth is being throttled. But how can you tell if an internet service provider (ISP) is controlling your internet speed? And if they are, is there a way to stop it?
Jan 03, 2022 · 5 min read
So what is bandwidth throttling? Bandwidth throttling is when your ISP deliberately slows down your internet. You may have reached your monthly data cap, or perhaps you’ve forgotten to pay a bill. However, ISPs may still throttle your bandwidth even with an unlimited contract.
ISPs won’t throttle everyone — it depends on how your online activity looks. ISPs can see what websites you visit and, depending on that information, they can decide whether to throttle your connection or not.
ISPs can throttle your bandwidth for the following reasons:
You’ve probably asked yourself, “Am I being throttled?”. We will explain how to check if your internet is being throttled.
If your internet speed drops suddenly for no apparent reason, your ISP likely throttles your bandwidth. Lagging videos or slow downloads are obvious red flags, but you can simply perform an internet speed test to determine whether you experience any speed drops. There are tons of speed-checking tools available online that are really easy to use. However, some ISPs can artificially inflate your speed test results, so keep in mind that it is not a foolproof way.
Here are the steps to follow when you want to find out if someone is throttling you:
Alternatively, you can use the Internet Health Test. It checks your connection speed across popular access points and detects slowdowns.
Of course, make sure to check how much bandwidth your internet plan offers to make sure your throttling is not the result of data capping. This is a process where ISPs limit bandwidth due to users exceeding their data limits.
Bandwidth throttling is not illegal in most countries. In some cases, it is even necessary as it helps ISPs manage their network usage and allocate bandwidth. The absence of it could even result in an unstable service or connection disruptions.
However, as with most online tools, bandwidth throttling can be used for ill purposes too. An unproven but popular theory is that big media sites pay ISPs for faster load times; it’s one of the ways ISPs make money. In return, ISPs may throttle competitor sites or favor their proprietary sites, manipulating your exposure to specific sites and information.
Paid prioritization used to be illegal (and still is in the EU), but since the US revoked net neutrality laws in 2018, control of the internet has largely been left to corporations. Unfortunately, this gives some of the bigger providers opportunities to limit visits to sites they don’t approve of by throttling your bandwidth to a crawl.
End-service sites, like Netflix, can also choose to lock or limit their bit rate. Netflix has done this on a few occasions, but the purpose was to provide higher-quality streaming at the cost of speed in order to prevent users from exceeding their data caps. Fewer data caps meant higher viewership.
Some countries, like Singapore, have made throttling illegal. But the problem is that it is really difficult to control throttling activities, and ISPs still curb users’ bandwidth. Users usually don’t notice any changes, especially in cases when ISPs slow down particular websites or activities. Also, it is really difficult to gather evidence and identify patterns proving that a company engages in throttling activities.
While it is challenging to avoid bandwidth throttling entirely, here are a few ways to minimize it:
Just last year, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom was found to be throttling YouTube and Amazon Prime to a rate of 1.5 Mbps. In the UK, Giffgaff and O2 networks throttled YouTube and Netflix to 1 and 1.5 Mbps. The average global speed is 6.8 Mbps. That’s a good reason to use a VPN on your phone.
A VPN service hides everything you do online by encrypting your traffic. Since your traffic will look gibberish to the ISP, they won’t choose you first when they look for high-priority targets.
However, no matter if you’re using a VPN or not, your ISP can still throttle the speed for all users during high-traffic periods of the day. Some providers just can’t keep up with the amount of data processed, even though they promised you ‘unlimited plans.’
NordVPN is the best choice to decrease unethical bandwidth throttling based on your online actions. Its ultra-fast speeds guarantee you the best performance whatever you do. NordVPN offers tons of servers to choose from, so you can always find the one that works best for you.
Moreover, NordVPN uses ultra-strong encryption and will protect your privacy.
VPNs were created to protect personal privacy, security, and freedom of speech. Providing a potential solution to bandwidth throttling is just one bonus – here’s what else NordVPN can do: