Believe it or not, the bandwidth of the Internet is never limitless. The signal being received by your device is transmitted by a single tower that is concurrently connected by several other people. This is why ISP's often "throttle" and/or restrict your speeds without warning you specifically when they are doing so, to allow some extra bandwidth for those attached to the same tower. In general, ISPs only throttle what they find to be a “heavy internet user”, or as they claim, during “high traffic” days.
Being a typical moderate user of the internet, you’ll never experience throttling. If your internet gets sluggish, it might be due to some other reasons.
What is throttling?
Throttling is the term we use when the internet speed is intentionally slowed down by an ISP. As the name suggests, the ISP tends to bottleneck the downloading speed by reducing the amount of bandwidth available, not only in day time but ISPs throttle at night as well. Slower speeds, in turn, results in lower quality streaming, online games lagging quite often, and downloads taking a lot more time. Depending upon the rate of throttling, you may no longer be able to stream without buffering, or you may experience poor quality video chats, getting disconnected from the video and the audio feedback.
Time Warner may also be throttling your data just for the sake of certain websites and services. Video streaming websites such as Netflix typically consume a lot of data, particularly if HD or UHD are being watched. Time Warner may throttle your connection to Netflix or other sites to reduce the bandwidth to that site only. As a result, you cannot stream in high definition.
Why do companies throttle data?
1. Data limit reached
Most users have data caps on their plan that restricts their data usage. Sometimes the speeds are drastically decreased as they surpass the volume of allotted data. Instead of totally cutting access to the internet, ISPs prefer consumers who still have data available behind. Though the slower speeds can be incredibly frustrating, it is still bearable over completely losing the connection.
2. High Traffic Time
While bandwidth is not normally a concern for major internet providers, it is still a limited resource. With every broad data consumption above the quotas, ISPs may have to throttle a few connections so that their prioritized customers can get fast speeds.
3. ISPs Targeting Specific Activity
The elimination of Net Neutrality improves the ISP's ability to bandwidth throttling on different content categories or charge higher fees, as happens with streaming platforms such as Netflix. When the prices for these service suppliers are significantly raised, the costs can be passed down to you.
How to check if your internet is being throttled
A free online speed test is the easiest way to measure your internet speed. Unfortunately, most Internet providers can sense speed tests and falsely inflate the speeds to indicate as if they’re not throttling. Therefore, a speed test is not a reliable way to identify throttling. The only safe way to verify if your connection is being throttled is through a virtual private network, also called a VPN.
As mentioned earlier, ISPs may throttle specific types of websites or services, and by masking your IP address and ISP operation, a VPN can make this nearly impossible.
While your ISP is hindered to handle all the contents fairly due to the inability to distinguish what kind of websites you access, the actual speeds can then be measured using an online speed test.
So, to recapitulate, you can easily figure out if your internet speeds are being reduced deliberately by following these steps below:
- Check your internet speed.
- Download a legitimate Virtual Private Network (VPN) and activate it.
- Check your internet speed again to see if you get a different result this time.
After following the internet throttling test, if your speeds are different and are substantially lower with the use of VPN, there are high chances of your internet being throttled.
Is there a way to stop internet throttling?
Luckily yes, there are a few ways you can take to fix it:
1. If your data is limited, the best way to avoid it is through proper monitoring of your usage, or by shifting to a package with higher bandwidth limits. But, it may not be an easy task to fix it, if your internet is unlimited.
2. Log on to a well-known VPN. A strong VPN will provide an internet throttling solution. However, sometimes a VPN might not be able to resolve the issue because of large online services like Netflix and Hulu, having enhanced capability of identifying VPNs. At this point, they will hinder the usage of their services if they are unable to locate your location.
3. Some ISPs are best known for slowing down their usage, and virtually every ISP has a different data limit. You should sign up for another Internet service provider that has a substantially higher data limit if you are continuously throttled.
4. If none of the solutions seem to work, the only option would be to convince officials and officers of the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) to campaign for more accessible internets. You will join in the multiple battles against abusive throttling and content prioritization by sending an FCC report to voice your complaints or by emailing your representative.
Surprisingly, the throttling of an internet connection in most cases is legal and is practiced by many ISPs. One common reason for doing so is the inappropriate usage of data limits in a service plan. There are plenty of ways to check it and similarly, you may try the tips mentioned above, to avoid throttling if you suspect it being practiced.