Suppose you’re on season 3 of the Disenchantment series on Netflix. The night is young and you are feeling energetic. Since the week’s been tough, streaming your favorite show comfortably on a plushy couch seems like a great idea to spend your Saturday. Suddenly, you notice a monumental drop in video quality. Not only that, the screen starts pixelating, the audio begins fluctuating, and finally, buffering takes over. You remember paying your internet bill on time. Then, what could be the reason behind this lag? There may be many. For starters, you may be streaming at a peak traffic hour, your equipment may be outdated, or something may be interfering with your in-home Wi-Fi signal. We recommend you to check out this article about wifi. Wi-Fi’s not the problem? Then, perhaps you may be suffering at the hands of ISP throttling. What is ISP throttling, how can you detect it and what are the ways to stop it? Let’s find out below.
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What is Throttling & Why Does it Happen?
Internet throttling is a practice in which internet service providers purposefully limit your bandwidth transmission. As a result, you receive lower speeds than the usual. Why do ISPs throttle bandwidth, you ask? Good question. There may be multiple reasons behind this. Here are the most commonly understood ones:
On Exceeding Data Cap
You may experience data throttling once you hit your data cap. Data caps are pre-defined limits on the amount of data you can use over your home network in a month. Some internet service providers levy data allowances on their internet plans. In other words, they do not offer unlimited data. Once you hit the data cap, i.e. exceed allowance, your ISP may intentionally slowdown your bandwidth transmission, throttling your internet speed.
On Surfing at Rush Hour
Certain types of internet connections, specifically cable internet, are ‘shared’ between users in a community. For instance, if your next-door neighbor starts taking his online classes the same time you are planning to stream an episode online, then you can expect some form of speed throttling due to high usage time. In peak traffic hours, the probability of exceeding bandwidth allowance remains high, which is why internet service providers limit data transmission, so all customers can enjoy equal, albeit slow, internet connectivity.
Whatever the reason may be, throttling is annoying and feels intrusive. The following sections will give you an idea of how to detect it and how to avert it safely. Stay tuned.
How to Detect Throttling by Your Internet Provider?
It’s time to wear your X-ray glasses and get to the bottom of this mystery. If your connection is indeed proven to be throttled, only then you can call up your provider and give them a piece of your mind. This doesn’t require a special technical know-how. You can do these steps on your own too.
Perform an Internet Speed Test
One of the easiest ways to tell if your internet connection is being throttled (or not) is to run a speed test. You can find any basic speed test online. Two notable examples are fast.com and speedtest.net, which will give you the exact download speed and the upload speed that you are receiving from your ISP. To get the most accurate results, connect your PC or laptop on which you’re running the speed test to the router or modem via an Ethernet cable. Close all background programs and unnecessary apps.
Perform an Internet Speed Test with VPN Enabled
A VPN or a Virtual Private Network does the job of shielding your internet activities from your ISP. Some ISPs can know that you are running an internet speed test, and they may hold throttling while you do that to avoid detection. With a VPN, you will get the most realistic results of your internet speed situation.
Put your results from a regular speed test and a VPN-enabled speed test side by side and tally. If the download speed and upload speed is similar in both cases, then your ISP is not throttling your connection. Match the figures with the advertised speed in your plan to see how much you’re really receiving. If, however, the VPN-enabled test shows a faster speed, then you can safely assume that your ISP is throttling your connection.
How to Stop ISP Throttling?
Browsing on a VPN seems to be the best solution to enjoy faster speeds. Sign up for a reputable service like NordVPN and continue to stream your favorite show like before. Keep in mind that some streaming sites like Netflix require location information, and VPNs generally hide that. You can also implement other measures like monitoring your monthly data usage to avoid hitting your data cap. If data caps sound distasteful to you, then go ahead and sign up for a plan that offers unlimited bandwidth. Cable users usually have to suffer from peak usage hours, but if you shift to a fiber optic connection, then you might be able to skip throttling altogether.
The Final Word
ISP throttling is a legal though a frustrating practice since it stops your internet activities in their track. You can use the pointers mentioned in this post to see if your internet speed is being throttled by your ISP, and what are the steps you can take to avert the issue.