What Is ISP Throttling and How Can You Stop It?

What Is ISP Throttling and How Can You Stop It?

If you ever noticed a drop in your internet speed out of nowhere, the ISP might be throttling your bandwidth. But what is ISP throttling?

Most ISPs are throttling your internet bandwidth for torrenting and for known streaming media sources such as YouTube.

If you ever watched a movie on Netflix and the video got pixelated in the middle of the action, that was probably because the ISP was throttling your internet connection.

But what throttling means?

In this post, we'll go over what ISP throttling is, along with solutions on how to stop your ISP from throttling your bandwidth again.


What is throttling?

Simply put, throttling is when your internet connection speed downgrades. Internet Service Providers (ISP) slow down your internet speed deliberately.

Throttling can occur on both home internet connections and cell phone internet connections.

Throttling is a regulation measure taken by Internet Service Providers in order to regulate network traffic and minimize network congestion. You can notice how this happens more often at times when more people are using the internet, such as in the evenings when many come home from work and get online.

To better understand the reasons of Internet Service Providers throttling their clients, let's take a deeper look over what's the deal with the bandwidth.

What is bandwidth?

Each Internet Server Provider has a limited amount of bandwidth available for their clients and it differs based on the area and connection type.

Often times, the terms of bandwidth and speed are used interchangeably but, in reality, they are not the same thing. Customers should know the difference between the two as there's a misunderstanding that a higher bandwidth connection will automatically provide a faster internet connection, especially because Internet Service Providers advertise terrific speeds for their highest bandwidth services.

Bandwidth is just one of the factors that determine the users' internet speed. And it is, in fact, the maximum capacity of data that can be transmitted through an internet service provider.

To portray an easier image on the term, think about a hosepipe and the water flowing through it. There's a limited amount of water that can fit in the hosepipe at once and the larger the hosepipe, the greater the amount of water it can carry.

So, the bandwidth does not dictate the speed of which data packets travel between nodes, but a low capacity can cause obstructions in the network and this will result in unresponsive or slow applications for the users. For example, a low bandwidth might not be able to carry enough data packets at once for you to run a video game.

When the ISP is throttling your connection, it is controlling the volume of traffic being sent in a specified period (narrowing the hosepipe).


Why do ISPs would slow down your internet speed?

Given the popularity of the internet, high-speed internet is somewhat a priority in today's age so the internet provider slowing your internet connection does not make much sense. Still, here are a couple of reasons why the ISP might throttle your bandwidth to limit your internet speed.

Decongesting the network

The ISP might put a limit on your internet connection especially during peak times. That's because plenty of people are using the internet, hence their services, at the same time-consuming lots of bandwidth. If the internet provider thinks they cannot handle all the users sending data packets and downloading large files at high speed, they'll try to stabilize the network by throttling the connections.

Limited bandwidth plan

There are also cases when internet service providers add to their contract a fair usage policy. This means that each customer or household has a limit of data they can use during a month. If the user downloads large files and reaches the data limit, the ISP will throttle the connection until the following month.

Preventing large data transfers

ISP throttling happens more in some instances when you use the internet for downloading large files, P2P file sharing (torrenting), uploading huge amounts of data into the cloud or streaming media on platforms such as Netflix or YouTube.

If you watch movies and TV shows on Netflix, you might have noticed the screen going pixelated even if it wasn't like that when you first hit play. That's not because of your device but because the ISP is throttling your internet connection.

The ISP is also throttling your connection if you notice the speed dropping when you're downloading torrents.

The reasoning behind taking this action is that the ISP is trying to make things fair for everyone so the network is not consumed by only a small percentage of power users.

If you're hoping that the ISP is breaking the law for throttling your internet connection well, sadly, that's not the case. There are laws that allow ISP to throttle your internet service.

There's been a debate on network neutrality recently. Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs must provide equal internet communications to all users and not discriminate based on content, users, website, applications. Because of net neutrality, ISPs are not allowed to block traffic from specific services or prioritize specific traffic. While net neutrality was introduced in 2015 during the Barack Obama administration, it was abolished in 2016 by the FCC after Donald Trump as elected.

Recently, a debate on net neutrality has come to light when Verizon throttled the data speeds of California firefighters battling a blaze.

ISPs are now free to throttle their users' internet connections without any consequences. Carriers state that they no not blanket throttle but rather implement network management to manage traffic on their networks. According to the ISPs, they are not selectively throttling traffic based on what property it is and treat all traffic the same, not discrimination or prioritizing.

It's important for users to use tools to monitor if the ISPs are throttling certain services as ISPs are not always transparent about throttling.


How to stop your ISP from throttling?

If you want to stop the ISP from throttling your internet connection altogether, there are a couple of easy ways to do so.

Use a VPN

VPNs stand for Virtual Private Networks and they provide a way to access the internet in a private and secure manner. VPNs are highly popular because they allow you to access websites and online services you wouldn't otherwise be able to because they hide your real location.

To use a VPN, all you have to do is register for a VPN provider, download their software, and connect to one of their servers. Your internet connection will then be routed through the VPN's server including web browses, games, an BitTorrent.

Not only you'll become anonymous online by using a VPN, but it also creates a secure tunnel between your device and the internet by encrypting all the data that's being transferred.

How will a VPN stop the ISP from throttling your internet connection?

Well, the process is easy.

When you try to visit a website by using a regular connection, the request goes to your ISP's server and it's then forwarded to the website you want to access. In this case, the website is able to see your IP address (hence your real location) and the ISP sees the website you access and how you interact with it (downloading media, watching videos).

When using a VPN, on the other hand, the request to access the website is sent from your ISP to the VPN's server and then forwarded to the website. So the website will see the VPN server's IP address (your real location remains private) and the ISP is not able to see where you go online. The only thing the ISP sees when you're connected to a VPN is that you are connected to the VPN's server, but they won't be able to track your online behavior.

This means that your ISP won't have any idea if you're streaming videos or downloading torrents, hence you won't give up any signals to make your ISP throttle your internet connection.

Besides stopping your ISP from throttling, a VPN also gives other amazing perks such as:

  • Being able to download torrents anonymously - Your real IP address is hidden, the ISP is not able to know you're downloading torrents and either is the government. Even better if the VPN software provides a kill switch because it will automatically stop your internet connection if something goes wrong with connecting to the server so you won't expose your activity by mistake.
  • Unblock Netflix or YouTube - Some services have dedicated platforms for each country and they hold different content. For example, The US version of Netflix has the most movies and TV shows available but you're not able to access it unless you're a US resident. You might also find that some YouTube videos are restricted in your country. Another media streaming website example that's only available in the US is Freeform. Because a VPN provider has servers located all around the globe, you're able to choose the country you want to connect from. If you live in Europe for example and want to watch something on the US Netflix, all you have to do is register for a VPN service, connect to a US server, and you're good to go.
  • Unblock websites and games at work and school - In places such as offices and schools, network administrators often block certain online platforms (social media platforms, email clients, games). With a VPN, you're able to bypass the firewall and access any online content you want.

Using proxies

A proxy, similar to a VPN, works as a gateway between your device and the internet.

When you access a website, the request is sent from your ISP to the proxy server and then to the website. The ISP only sees you're connected to the proxy server, but it doesn't see what it happens behind that door.

Unlike VPNs, when you set up a proxy connection it won't redirect your whole internet connection with a single click. To connect to the proxy server you must configure individual web browsers. If you, for example, set up only Google Chrome to connect through the proxy server, Firefox will still use your local IP.

Also, individual proxies are specific to a single location. If you want the freedom to switch between multiple server locations, you must purchase multiple proxies.

If you want to stop your ISP from throttling your torrenting, you should know that you must purchase SOCKS proxies as HTTP proxies do not support FTP servers and BitTorrent clients.


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