Dealing with slow internet speeds is a common problem with numerous causes. You will notice that your internet is being throttled when you experience lagging while streaming movies online, doing video conference or playing online games. One of those causes is bandwidth throttling, which is when an ISP intentionally reduces your internet speeds.
Slow Speed and What Causes It
There are numerous different factors that can contribute to slow internet speeds, and it is unlikely that throttling is among the leading causes. Common reasons include outdated networking equipment, poor router positioning, unoptimized network settings and so forth. Many slow internet connections simply require power cycling the router and the modem in order to clear the caches. That said, bandwidth throttling is among the most worrisome causes because you have less control over it.
What Is Bandwidth Throttling?
Bandwidth throttling is when an internet provider intentionally limits the speeds of your connection. ISPs view it as a tool through which they can reduce network congestion and avoid server crashes. From the usual perspective of the consumer, it is an unfair practice. You are using a service for which you are paying good money, and your ISP is penalizing you based on that usage. The most high-profile case in the U.S. involved Comcast, which had FCC complaints against it. But throttling is not against the law and in use by a number of ISPs, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.
Test Your Internet Speed
Do you know what speeds your current plan allows for and guarantees? This is an important starting point. From there, you will want to test your speed with a tool like Speedtest by Ookla or similar. We recommend testing it at various times of the day and recording a log. This will give you an idea of what your usual internet speeds are when using it for a range of different purposes.
Troubleshot Your Connection
If your speeds are not where they should be, then you will need to troubleshot your connection, and this step and testing your Internet speed will often go hand in hand. If your speeds are due to a problem with your local network, it will often require a heuristic approach to solving it. We recommend beginning with assessing your router and antennas. You may then want to consider positioning that is elevated and central to the home. Depending on the size of the home, you may need a repeater or extender, these devices can make your internet go faster. You may also want to consider bringing in a tech for a professional assessment.
Using a VPN to Identify Bandwidth Throttling
If you have ruled out local network troubles and are still experiencing lower speeds than expected, it is time to determine if you are being throttled. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is through a VPN. Your internet service provider needs to see your IP address in order to throttle it. A virtual private network helps to disguise that signature. It is important to note that not all VPN services are created equal and that it is very important that you choose a quality VPN that will not itself interfere with your speeds. A month of service from the top options generally cost $12 or less, and you can reduce that to as little as $3-4 by paying ahead.
Test Your Speed Again
Test your speed again both with the VPN active and without. Note that no matter how good the VPN, it will reduce your Internet speeds to some degree, so you should see a discrepancy in favor of your Internet connection with the VPN not in use. However, if you are experiencing higher speeds with the VPN active, that is pretty clear evidence that your ISP is indeed throttling your connection.
Start by calling your ISP and demanding that they stop throttling your account. But many areas lack competition, and ISPs are not particularly motivated to bend to such demands. If you do have options, however, then you may want to switch to a company that values your business more.