How Can I Tell if My Internet is Being Throttled ?

Is My Internet Being Throttled?

Slow internet speeds can be frustrating. Videos won’t load, browsing can be difficult, and at the worst of times, even email won’t work. Sometimes slow networks are bound to happen. Other times your ISP is intentionally slowing your speed, a practice known as throttling. You need to know how to tell if your internet is being throttled.

The best way to tell if your internet is being throttled is to run speed tests. If you pay for a specific speed of service, then your speed tests should show it. Sometimes throttling isn’t the problem. Router issues, Wi-Fi delays, or other connectivity issues cause slow speeds too.

Another way to see if your internet company throttles your service is to run speed tests with a VPN. If the speed is significantly different with a VPN engaged, your ISP is probably throttling your service based on content.

In this post, we’ll go over how to tell if your internet is being throttled by starting with important definitions. That will give us a clear understanding of how and why internet throttling might happen to you. And finally, we’ll look at the various tests you can use to check if your internet is being throttled and what can be done to fix it.

What Is an Internet Service Provider?

It’s easy to overlook the complicated parts behind the internet. Many systems combine to bring the internet to your computers, smartphones, and tablets. For most consumers, the internet service provider (ISP) is one of the most important parts.

ISPs are companies that connect your devices to the world wide web through high-speed internet lines. These organizations invest in infrastructure and employees to give you the internet service you pay for. They use a variety of methods to provide internet, including satellite technology, cable lines, or fiber optic cables.

When shopping for internet service, you select between different ISPs. Then you choose a specific plan based on internet speed. It may or may not have data caps. Selecting the right plan for your data needs will help you avoid having your internet speeds throttled.

What Is Network Throttling?

Network throttling is when internet service providers (ISPs) deliberately slow down your network speed. There are many reasons why ISPs use throttling to control internet speeds. Some are in your control, while others may not be.

The internet service package you purchase impacts your network speed and helps determine if your ISP throttles your internet. If you pay for a lower limited speed, then your ISP will throttle your bandwidth to match the speed you pay for. Paying more for higher speeds makes it less likely to have internet speeds throttled.

ISPs will also limit bandwidth by throttling internet speeds based on data caps and total data usage. Some ISPs offer plans with truly unlimited data usage, but it’s becoming more common for internet plans to have monthly data caps. If you go over the data cap, then your speed is throttled until the next payment cycle.

Sometimes, ISPs throttle your internet connection for reasons out of your control. They might throttle your internet speeds to stop network congestion, regulate traffic, and protect users from malicious content.

Is Throttling Illegal?

You might be wondering if throttling is illegal, especially in cases where you have purchased a high-speed plan and have not gone over the data cap. In most cases, throttling your internet speeds is legal.

The current rules only require that internet service providers disclose their network-management practices. Tests performed in 2018 indicate that nearly every US cell provider throttles internet speeds.

How Do I Tell If My Internet Is Being Throttled?

There are many ways to tell if your internet is throttled. You can ask your ISP, perform speed tests, and use a VPN to check if your internet speeds are being throttled.

Ask Your ISP About Throttling Your Internet

The first place to go is your ISP. You can reach out directly to your internet service provider to ask if your internet speeds are throttled. While throttling is not illegal, ISPs must disclose their network-management practices.

At a minimum, your ISP should be able to provide you with information about their throttling practices, and in some cases, they can confirm directly if your network speeds are throttled or not.

The ISP might be throttling your internet due to the internet package you pay for, the amount of data you use, or other network-based factors which might be out of your control. They are probably not breaking the law by doing so.

Perform Speed Tests to Check for Slow Internet Speeds

One of the best ways to tell if your internet is being throttled is to perform speed tests. Internet speed tests run data to specific servers and track the amount of time they take to go back and forth, providing you with a speed result.

If you run speed tests and they show significantly lower speeds than your service provider says you should get, it is possible that your internet speeds are being throttled. Keep in mind that other factors will have an impact on your internet speeds. Slow speeds do not always mean that your internet is throttled.

Entire networks can get congested during high-traffic times. Outdated and improperly-installed routers cause slow internet speeds. And even when the latest equipment is installed properly, it is normal for Wi-Fi connections to be slower than wired ethernet connections.

There are many options for running speed tests to see if your internet speeds are being throttled. Here are a few of the most popular speed tests:

  • M-Lab is the result of industry leaders, research organizations, and public-interest groups getting together to provide a verifiable network of internet performance.
  • Ookla’s speed test performs over ten million speed tests daily and has performed more than 40 billion tests total since its founding in 2006.
  • Netflix created a speed test for its users to determine if their networks can handle video streaming.

How to Use a VPN to See If Your Internet Is Being Throttled

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are another tool to see if your internet speeds are throttled. They encrypt your internet usage so that any ISP can’t identify the specific actions you take online.

To see if your internet speeds are throttled, perform a speed test without a VPN on. Then turn your VPN on and run the same test. If the tests result in significantly different speeds, your ISP is likely throttling your internet speed.

Your ISP might throttle speeds for specific network usage, such as streaming video or downloading files from specific sites. By using a VPN, your ISP can’t determine if you are streaming or downloading from specific sites, and won’t be able to do this content-specific type of internet speed throttling.

How to Avoid Internet Throttling

There are two main ways you can avoid having your internet speed throttled.

First, you can select a different internet service provider or a different plan. Most ISPs, including Xfinity, Cox, and AT&T, have deals available for new customers. Some ISPs throttle service more often than others. Choosing the right plan will help get you the speed you need.

Second, if you experience content-specific throttling, then using a high-quality VPN can help. By encrypting your internet activity, a VPN will make it difficult for any ISP to content throttle.

How Much Speed Do I Need?

To avoid unwanted internet speed throttling, determine how much internet speed you need and select an appropriate plan from your internet service provider.

Since everyone’s internet usage almost always changes slightly from day to day, it can be difficult to determine how much speed you need. Watching different movies and browsing different websites impacts your internet data usage.

Some general rules do exist, and most often are based on the number of devices/people using the internet and the type of information they connect to. The more people and devices connected, the more data used. Streaming high-quality video and online gaming have a large impact on the amount of data used.

For example, a 5 to 40 Mbps connection is usually sufficient for the needs of one person. It can handle HD streaming, video calling, or online gaming for one person.

If you have multiple people in your household, then you probably want to select an internet speed in the 40 to 100 Mbps range. This usually allows for multiple devices to have HD streaming or multiplayer online gaming, which are some of the most data-intensive tasks.

How to Tell If Your Internet is Being Throttled: Wrap-Up

Internet service providers throttle internet speeds for various reasons, including selecting a low-speed plan, going over your data cap, or connecting at high-traffic times. You might be able to avoid having your internet speeds throttled by selecting a higher-speed plan or one with a larger data cap.

If you want to know how to tell if your internet is being throttled, then you should perform a speed test, such as the M-Lab speed test. Perform a speed test with and without using a VPN to see if your ISP is throttling your internet speed based on content.

Omar Youssef

Omar attended Clemson University in South Carolina where studied computer information systems and fell in love with the field. He also likes playing video games, reading fantasy and self-improvement books, and learning from people who are smarter than him.