Don’t let ISP throttling slow down your Friday night.
Throttling is when an internet service provider (ISP) intentionally slows down your internet based on what you’re trying to do online.
With the rise of streaming video services like Netflix, HBO Max, and even YouTube that demand high bandwidth, ISPs have begun inspecting your data and restricting your download speed if they detect packets from those services. ISPs claim this is to reduce congestion on their networks, but the truth is more complicated.
There are several reasons for ISP throttling. If you’ve used a certain amount of data in a certain period of time, your ISP might start throttling your connection so you’ll use less data. Streaming sites use a lot of bandwidth, so ISPs tend to start throttling when they notice you streaming. And during periods of network congestion, ISPs might throttle connections to balance their network speeds, helping as many users as possible get decent service. Finally, ISPs in countries with heavy censorship throttle on some sites to frustrate users, discouraging them from visiting that content without outright blocking it.
The best way to know if your internet speed is being throttled is by running an internet speed test—with and without a VPN. A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts your internet traffic, shielding your online activity from your service provider. If your internet speed improves with the use of a VPN, there's a good chance your ISP is throttling your internet connection.
Some ISPs already have the capability to handle the extra data but choose to throttle content providers’ traffic because it competes with their own streaming content libraries. Some ISPs have forced Netflix to pay a fee to escape throttling, allowing the ISP to avoid paying for much-needed upgrades. Lack of competition among ISPs and broadband providers means that companies can even get away with overcharging customers for faster internet.
Peering is when two ISPs connect and exchange traffic. Mutually beneficial under normal circumstances, peering causes problems when a popular streaming service (such as Netflix) forces one ISP to exceed the agreed traffic ratio, prompting the other one to ignore congestion and refuse to make adjustments.
That means you could be denied the internet speeds you paid for simply because your ISP refuses to resolve a peering conflict with another company.
If your ISP is throttling your bandwidth, and switching providers is not an option, the easiest solution is to connect through VPN. Your ISP won’t be able to inspect the data packets, so it won’t be able to throttle that traffic based on what service you’re using. The result is unlimited bandwidth for pure, unrestricted streaming video.
Using a VPN also solves the congestion caused by peering conflicts. Instead of going through a third-party ISP to reach your content, your traffic travels on a privately maintained network, taking the most direct, least congested path between you and the content you love.
Many ISPs throttle streaming services such as Netflix, with Comcast admitting to having done so in the past—though it‘s since claimed that this is no longer in practice. But if you want to be sure, a VPN is your best bet for throttle-free streams all day, no matter which ISP or network you’re on.
The simplest ways to know is by running a speed test on your internet connection while watching Netflix. Do this with and without a VPN. If it’s faster with a VPN, that is a good indication that you’re being throttled.
Internet privacy laws vary from country to country, but in general, ISP throttling is not illegal.
Yes. If your mobile device internet connection is being throttled, it may lead to higher mobile data usage. This is particularly beneficial for ISPs, as high mobile data usage encourages users to purchase more data.
There are a number of ways to avoid throttling besides using a VPN. Using a proxy server is a potential solution, but it’s ineffective for several reasons, one being that proxies tend to be slow—defeating the purpose of stopping throttling. The other, easier solution is to upgrade your internet plan to receive more mobile data, ensuring that you don’t get close to your limit.
A VPN is still your best bet to bypass ISP throttling. ExpressVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try us risk-free.
There are a few methods you can try to boost your internet speeds:
Use an ad blocker
Clear your browser history and cache regularly
Disconnect devices that aren’t being used
Use fiber optic cabling
Getting a more powerful router, preferably one with a VPN, is another excellent method of improving your internet speeds.
Some Wi-Fi devices are said to stop internet throttling, but there has been no real evidence that these devices actually work.