Is My Internet Being Throttled?
July 14, 2023
How often does your Internet slow down? You're trying to stream your favorite movie or TV show, but buffering keeps freezing the video. You're gaming or on a zoom call, but lag keeps getting in the way. This doesn't always happen—but it seems to occur more often when you try to use bandwidth-heavy sites, services, or apps.
If your Internet service isn't always this bad, what keeps slowing it down when it seems like you need it the most?
One possible explanation is that you could be getting throttled by your Internet provider.
Let's talk about what throttling is, why Internet providers do it, how to find out if it's happening to you, and what you can do about it.
What Is Internet Throttling?
Internet throttling is when an Internet service provider intentionally slows their service, giving users slower speeds than they should normally be getting.
This usually happens when an Internet provider tries to minimize the bandwidth being used and occurs most often to heavy Internet users who upload or download large amounts of data.
Here's an example: your provider might throttle your speeds if you're doing any specific activity that uses a large amount of bandwidth, like streaming in HD or sharing large files for work. This can result in slower speeds, buffering, and poor video or sound quality.
Why would an Internet provider do this to their service and their customers? There are a few reasons why.
Why Is My Internet Being Throttled?
Some reasons why your Internet might be getting throttled include:
1. Network Congestion
Network congestion is one of the biggest reasons for Internet throttling. If too many users are trying to go online at the same time, your provider may throttle Internet connections to reduce the strain on its network. This is because your Internet provider can only supply so much bandwidth to go around.
If you try to stream a show or movie on Netflix after work and it's buffering, it's likely because many of your neighbors were trying to do the same thing, and your Internet provider can't give everyone the bandwidth they need.
So in order to give all of their users at least some bandwidth, they throttle users who are streaming, gaming, sharing large files, or doing anything else that uses a lot of bandwidth.
2. Data Caps
Some Internet providers may throttle your speeds if you exceed a monthly data cap. This is often done to prevent users from using too much bandwidth. If your provider uses data caps, you might have seen throttling and overage fees added to your bill.
3. Paid Prioritization
Several Internet providers have been accused of prioritizing some sites and services over others, usually for compensation by the owners of those sites.
Here's an example: a big streaming service might pay your Internet provider for priority over other, smaller streaming services. As a result, those smaller services will be throttled and customers who try to use them will get frustrated by the higher amount of buffering.
This will drive them to the service that paid more for a "fast lane" with no interference or interruptions to their download speeds.
Start asking questions about your Internet provider’s service:
- Does your provider use a cable or Fiber network?
- If your Internet is Fiber, is it 100% fiber-to-the-home?
- Do other customers in your area complain about their speeds dropping the same time yours do?
- Does your provider have data limits, and what happens when you hit them?
- With which services specifically are you experiencing slower speeds?
These questions are good to keep in mind because providers that use data throttling often do so because they don't have the infrastructure to support all their customers.
Now that you know why your ISP is throttling your service, it's time to learn how to recognize it the next time it happens.
How To Tell if Your Internet Is Being Throttled
There are a few signs that your Internet is being throttled:
1. Slow Speeds
If you experience slow Internet speeds at certain times of the day or for specific websites or services that use a lot of bandwidth, it might be a sign your Internet is being throttled. Start running speed tests to see if your speeds are what you're paying for and whether they change throughout the day.
When running a speed test, it's important to do it while on a hardwired connection to your modem. Another common cause for slow speeds could be too many devices on your Wi-Fi network, and you want to make sure to rule this out when trying to get accurate speed test results.
2. Reduced Quality
If you're noticing a drop in the quality of videos or audio you're streaming, even while on a hardwired connection, it could be a sign that your provider is throttling your connection.
Is Throttling Legal?
While we believe it shouldn’t be, it is in fact legal for Internet providers to throttle their speeds if they inform their customers—so check your provider’s fine print for any language about that.
It is illegal for a provider to throttle their speeds if they don’t tell their customers about it and claim to have unlimited data, however.
How To Get Around Throttled Internet
If your provider throttles your speeds, there are a few things you can do to get around it:
1. Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your Internet traffic, making it harder for your Internet provider to monitor and throttle specific data streams. If your provider can’t see the content you’re viewing online, you won’t get throttled for specific online activities. That’s how VPNs can help you avoid throttling and improve your Internet speed.
It's important to remember that some Internet providers may have policies against using VPNs or other methods to bypass throttling.
2. Contact Your Internet Provider
If you suspect your Internet provider is throttling you, you can contact your ISP. They may be able to resolve the issue or offer you a different, often more expensive, package that doesn't include throttling.
But don't simply try to bypass throttling if you can stop it once and for all.
How To Stop Internet Throttling
The only way to end throttling is to find an Internet provider that always delivers the bandwidth and speeds promised.
Sign up for an Internet provider that can deliver the necessary bandwidth to all their customers and offer unlimited data on all their plans, so you don't have to pay overages or premium prices for the service you deserve.
Interested in a 100% fiber-to-the-home provider with a blazing-fast, ultra-reliable service that guarantees consistent speed, a dependable connection, and Internet plans with unlimited data? Find out if Tachus is in your area today!