If you've ever noticed unusual slowdowns on your internet connection, it might be more than just a coincidence. You should also wonder "am I being throttled?". In our world, throttling is quite a common occurrence, yet it is never fun for the user. Because you can be throttled without any prior announcement, there are a few ways to find out for yourself. But wait. What exactly is throttling, what causes it and how to find out whether your connection is throttled! Let's find out!
What is internet throttling?
Throttling is when your internet service provider (ISP) slows down your connection, and it can happen for a variety of reasons. Usually, it's because you've reached your data cap for the month. If you have a data plan for, let's say 50GB per month after you consume those 50GB, your connection might still be active, but it will be severely hampered. Your internet will be working much slower and enabling just enough bandwidth for you to write messages, but not enough to watch videos, play games, etc. Throttling allows ISPs to better manage their technical resources yet it's something that a user never wants to experience.
Throttling involves the Internet (WWW), the ISP and the user. When the user's connection is being throttled, the internet sends over data to ISP much faster than it is being transmitted to the user via the ISP. In short, when throttled, the ISP will limit connection speeds.
With that being said, internet throttling can happen for even more reasons. We'll discuss them in this article.
Most common reasons for throttling
Besides reaching your data cap, there are a few more reasons why your ISP might throttle your connection. The most common reason is related to congestion. It's common for both larger and smaller carriers. If many people in your area are using the internet at the same time, your speeds might be slowed down because of that. You probably have noticed that when you're in a huge crowd of people, turning on your mobile (cellular) data doesn't do much. The Internet works slow, barely loads anything.
Another reason for throttling can be related to your activity. Some ISPs throttle specific types of traffic, such as video streaming or gaming. It's not that common, but it can still happen. And in some cases, you might be the only person being throttled because of your activity. Look over your web history, and if you visit (frequently) some websites that are considered dangerous, extreme or are blacklisted, your bandwidth can be throttled.
Yet another reason for internet throttling is when your contract with an ISP expires. In some cases, ISPs offer a promotional rate for the first 6 or 12 months of the contract and then they return to the regular price. Your connection can be throttled until you renew the contract and pay the regular price. This doesn't mean that you're left without internet access per se, yet your bandwidth is much slower which can become super annoying.
How do I find out am I being throttled?
Now that we know what internet throttling is and some of its reasons, let's move on and see how to find out am I being throttled. We will give four ways (methods) to help you find out.
Check if speeds are what you're paying for
The first thing to do is to check whether your connection speed is what you're paying for. In other words, see the difference between what your ISP promised and what you're actually getting. Most of the time, if there is throttling going on, you will see a noticeable difference. And it's not because their services just got worse, but because they want to make sure that you won't reach your data cap too soon.
You can use an internet speed test tool Speedtest by Ookla
to see what speeds you're getting. For this method to be foolproof, you need to test your connection several times at different times, let's say in the morning, during the day, and in the evening. Your true result would be the average from those three measurements. If it's more than 20% off of what you're paying, you should look into your browsing or usage history and/or contact your ISP about this.
Also, if you only have a wireless connection at home, make sure not too many devices are connected simultaneously. If you have 2 consoles, 4 phones, 2 TVs, 2 computers, a tablet, smart home items and other tech connected to the internet at the same time, your internet can be significantly slower. Disconnect unused devices.
Check if only certain activities are being throttled
The second method to help you find out whether "am I being throttled?" is by checking whether only certain activities are being slowed down. You can use the same Speedtest tool for this as well.
For example, let's say you're trying to stream a video on Netflix. The video quality is really bad, and it just won't stream without buffering on a higher quality, to the point where it's unwatchable. You should run a speed test and see that your speeds are really low, much lower than what you're paying for, and not enough to use Netflix while you're trying to stream. Then, close Netflix and open up a harmless news website or social media. If measurements differ drastically, that can be a sign of throttling. Yet, it's only targeted at activities that require a lot of bandwidth.
On the other hand, if you're trying to download a file from the internet and it's slow, but the speedtest shows results are fine, that's not throttling. In that case, the problem is most likely with the website you're trying to download from.
Use a VPN
The third way to find out am I being throttled is by using a VPN (virtual private network). It's actually the most recommended way because it's usually the fastest and easiest method to find an answer. When you use a VPN, your traffic is encrypted and goes through a different server. That way, your ISP can't see what you're doing online and they can't throttle your connection.
If you notice that your speeds are fine when you use a VPN but really slow when you don't, that's a strong indication of throttling.
Get help from your ISP
The fourth and final method to find out whether you're being throttled is by contacting your ISP directly and asking them. They should be able to tell you if they're throttling your connection and why.
Keep in mind that some ISPs throttle all customers during specific times, like peak hours in the evening when everyone's trying to use the internet at the same time. So, if you're being throttled, it may not necessarily be because of something you did. Nevertheless, it might be worth switching to a different provider if this becomes an inconvenience for you.
How to stop your ISP from throttling your connection?
A lot of internet-providing companies have been increasingly throttling internet speeds for their customers in recent years. The good news is that there are ways to stop your ISP from throttling your connection.
One way to stop your ISP from throttling your connection is to use a VPN. A VPN encrypts your traffic and routes it through a different server, so your ISP can't see what you're doing online. That way, they can't throttle your connection.
Another way to stop your ISP from throttling your connection is to use a tool like Google's Data Saver and/or Chrome Lite. It's a solution that compresses data before it's sent to your browser, so throttling won't slow things down as much. If you're not browsing anything illegal, contact your ISP directly and ask to explain and reduce the inconveniences. If you're paying for a faster bandwidth, you should be getting it, regardless of what technical issues the ISP may have.
We hope this article helped you understand what internet throttling is and how to find out am I being throttled. Remember, that depending on the circumstances, throttling can be completely normal and unavoidable (like in huge crowds), but sometimes it's just inconvenient and could force you towards looking for another ISP.