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Signed up for the highest internet speed plan, double-checked the speed and bandwidth, but find yourself stuck with a slow internet connection from time to time? Well, chances are your connection is being throttled.

Sure you’ve heard the rumors, and like many ignored them. But what if we tell you they are “rumors” with more than a grain of truth in them? The fact is, it’s a rather common practice among internet service providers to throttle your internet connection—more so in the case of mobile and wireless services, and less so in the case of DSL, cable, and fiber optic. Because guess what. At the end of the day, the available bandwidth is limited.

One distribution or access point can only manage so much traffic. So, during peak hours when everyone is logged onto the internet, ISPs may throttle the internet in order to ensure everyone gets access, even if it is slow internet. It can be frustrating to find that you’re not getting your money’s worth. But more often than not when the internet service gets slow, there can be other reasons too as to why your connection behaves this way.

To identify where the problem lies, and to ascertain if it is really your provider throttling the connection, you can run some tests. The result will tell you whether your ISP is throttling the speed, or maybe you have a faulty router that’s bringing you down.  

What is Speed & Data Throttling?

Before we get to testing and figuring out if you’re connection is really being throttled, let’s take a look at what exactly is the phenomenon.

Throttling is a process used by internet service providers to purposely slow down data transmission, thus reducing internet consumption. At such times, you can struggle to locate the device that may be draining the bandwidth, and do everything in your power to optimize your in-home Wi-Fi network, but to no avail. Nothing you may do will fix the slow internet connection. Because the actual problem is that your speed or/and data is being choked from the ISP’s end.

So, why haven’t you been told about it?

Well, there are FCC rules that require ISPs to inform consumers about throttling, but they don’t always follow them. And, given that not everyone suspects or investigates a slow internet connection, ISPs end up getting away with this practice. But, then again, you may ask why would they do such a thing? There has to be a reason, right? Well yes. Whether you agree or disagree, there are quite a few in fact.

Reasons Why ISPs Throttle Speed or/and Data

Some of the reasons that lead to speed or data throttling are pretty legitimate. And, ISPs act within their jurisdiction when they throttle your connection. For instance:

You’ve crossed your data limit

Most, if not all, internet plans have a data cap that you must adhere to. When you cross this limit, most ISPs will either suspend your connection entirely until the next billing cycle starts. While others will simply slow the internet down by de-prioritizing you. In order to avoid such a roadblock, you must make sure you know exactly how much your monthly data allowance is. And, monitor your internet consumption to stay on track. Or else, you can buy more data at an additional cost to do what you need to be done.

It’s a peak traffic time

If you’re stuck on the road during rush hour, the drive is sure to be a slow one. You can’t blame the roads for that. Not really. The same is the case when you’re connected to the internet during peak hours. With a big bulk of people consuming the available bandwidth alongside you, ISPs must throttle the connection to ensure everybody can access the service. If however, you are on a fiber-optic connection—AT&T Fiber, Frontier FiberOptic, CenturyLink Fiber, or MetroNet Fiber, you’ll be spared the ordeal. Because, fiber optic cables carry data via light pulses and not electrical, and so they are able to carry more data at much faster rates. This is why the FTTH (Fiber to the Home) or FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) connection remains pretty much unaffected during the peak traffic time too.   

ISPs can throttle certain data-intensive activities

With Net Neutrality rules repealed, ISPs are now more so at liberty to throttle specific types of content, or even charge big data users, such as Netflix, a higher fee. Paid-prioritization and censorship may also be practiced to the detriment of internet users. Although the row over the legality of the 2018 repeal is still subjudice, users may find ISPs slowing the internet down from time to time on these accounts.  

How Do You Know Your Connection is Being Throttled

Now that we’ve established why providers do what they do, let’s take a look at how to find out if your connection is suffering the same fate. Here is how you can go about it:

This is the easiest way to check if your internet speed is indeed being throttled. There are quite a few credible sites that let you do it for free. But, ISPs are smarter. Most are able to detect you’re running a speed test, and inflate the speed to make it seem they’re not throttling the connection. So, what do you do?

Well, that is why the next step is to run another speed test. Only this time you’ll be connected to the internet via a reputed VPN. Meaning you’ll be hiding your online activity from your ISP. They’ll know how much data you are consuming, but they won’t know what that you’re using it for. So, when you conduct the speed test, it will not be disclosed to your ISP—thanks to the VPN!

Once, you have run the second speed test—while being connected to the internet via a credible VPN—you’ll have the answer to your question. If the second speed test reveals a faster speed, it means your speed is being throttled by your ISP. Using a VPN can also help identify if your ISP is prohibiting you from accessing specific types of content. Another indication of Net Neutrality being violated.

See, that wasn’t hard. But now that you know your slow internet is the result of throttling, what is next?

How You Can Fix Throttling

To start off, you can take a few simple and practical steps to work your way around your provider throttling your connection.  

Use a VPN

A good VPN can help undo internet throttling especially when it’s being applied to specific sites. However, if it’s a streaming platform you’re trying to access you won’t have much success. Services like Netflix and Hulu are pretty good at uncovering if you are connected via a VPN. And if they can’t determine where you’re located, they may restrict the service.

Check if you’ve exceeded the data cap

As we said earlier, many ISPs tend to slow your internet down when you have utilized your monthly data allowance. For instance, HughesNet—the provider does not disconnect users from the Web but does slow down the internet speed when you have used your allowed quota of data. Albeit, with HughesNet, you would know this when you subscribe to their plans. They don’t make a secret of it.  

But, not all ISPs are as candid. So, if you are suffering from slow internet, check your usage to determine if you have exceeded the data cap. This is not difficult with ISPs like AT&T or HughesNet for that matter. These providers give you the tools to monitor and manage your data consumption on your own.

Now, if you find that you’re exceeding the limit quite often, you can either limit your usage, so you don’t exceed the data cap. Or upgrade your plan to one with a higher data cap to fit the new level of your internet consumption. Or else, simply switch to a provider that offers unlimited data—like Charter Spectrum™, Optimum, and Windstream.

But, what if you are already on an unlimited data plan, and still a victim of throttling? Well, in that case, try the following:

Another Internet Provider

If the above actions fail to yield results, you may want to give another provider a shot.

Every ISP has a different data cap—for instance, Mediacom offers a variety of data allowances to match different speeds. Others like Cox Communications and Xfinity cap all speed tiers at around 1TB.

For the best service, however, you may want to ask people in your neighborhood about their internet plans and if they’re happy with what their ISP delivers. If you feel confused, you can check for ISPs and offers available at your address, and compare them yourself to find the best match for your needs.

Government Reps & the FCC

Approach your congressman and the Federal Communications Commission. Try to convince them to look into the matter. With enough people raising their voice over predatory throttling, we may eventually see a change in policy.

The Pending Legal Verdict on Throttling

Even though Net Neutrality has long been a bone of contention in the U.S., the fact is that there isn’t much legal cover in place to safeguard consumers against throttling. It is the consumer demand for quality service and the outrage against such disliked practices which for the most part keep ISPs under check.

Under the Net Neutrality act, which was approved in 2015 and repealed in 2018, ISPs cannot block content or subject users to slow internet via throttling. It’s a principle stance that insists all ISPs treat all data on the internet without discrimination. But, with the act now repealed, the progress made in this direction has been reversed. What you must however remain aware of is that ISPs are still required to notify users when they do so!

Other Reasons for Slow Internet

So, you’ve conducted the speed test and didn’t find throttling was the culprit? Well, then its time you did some troubleshooting to find the problem behind your slow internet connection. Check How to Troubleshoot Internet Issues to find answers. From faulty or outdated hardware to wider area issues such as a Spectrum outage, this article covers everything!

Final Words

We hope with this guide you’ll be able to detect internet throttling on your connection and address the issue effectively. Nobody should have to pay for higher speeds and not receive them.

But, if the steps you take indicate the problem lies elsewhere, then as we said before, it may be time to switch to another provider in the area. A reliable internet connection is hard to find. But with pro help available at BuyTVInternetPhone, and a great database of internet deals from renowned ISPs, you may just land a perfect fit for your needs. Speak to an expert at 1-855-349-9328 for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can ISPs throttle the internet legally?

Legal throttling is allowed to ISPs only when an internet connection is being used to conduct illegal activities.   

Does a VPN stop data throttling?

For the most part, VPN is an effective way of avoiding internet throttling. However, if you’ve exceeded your data cap then it can’t help much.

What happens when your provider throttles your internet connection?

When your ISP throttles your connection, the result is slow internet. While you still have enough speed for basic online tasks, you cannot conduct data-intense activities like streaming and gaming.