Bandwidth throttling – the bane of every binge watcher’s existence. You’re just settling in for a Netflix marathon when suddenly, your video starts buffering in an endless loop. The spinning wheel taunts you, but refreshing the page does no good. Your internet service provider (ISP) is intentionally slowing your connection.
It’s not just Netflix that suffers. YouTube videos won’t play in HD. Your latest video game update takes hours instead of minutes. And it always seems to happen right when you need your connection the most.
Bandwidth throttling can make it feel like your ISP is holding your internet speed hostage. And in a way, that’s exactly what’s happening. The good news? There are ways to save your bandwidth from throttling and get your surfing speeds back on track.
This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about bandwidth throttling and how to prevent it for good. You’ll learn:
- What exactly is bandwidth throttling and why do ISPs do it?
- How to confirm you’re being throttled.
- Tried and true techniques to stop throttling for faster speeds.
- How to choose the best VPN to outsmart your ISP.
- Extra tips to optimize your internet connection.
By the end, you’ll have all the tools to stop buffering in its tracks and prevent bandwidth throttling for smooth, uninterrupted internet speeds. Time to show slow buffers who’s boss!
What Is Bandwidth Throttling?
Before we dig into how to prevent throttling, let’s quickly cover what it is and why ISPs do it in the first place.
Bandwidth throttling is when an ISP intentionally slows your internet connection speed. They limit the amount of bandwidth available to customers during high traffic times. This is done to manage network congestion.
It works a bit like traffic on a highway. During busy rush hour times, an ISP will ‘throttle’ speeds to avoid traffic jams on their highway of bandwidth capacity.
By slowing connections across the board, no one person can use up too much bandwidth and congest the network. That would cause slow speeds for everyone.
Instead, throttling makes sure each customer gets a small slice of the bandwidth pie. Enough to browse the web, but not enough for data-heavy tasks like streaming HD video.
Why Do ISPs Throttle Customer Bandwidth?
Bandwidth throttling helps ISPs manage limited resources to avoid congestion. But make no mistake, there are other motivators at play as well.
Money is a major factor.
ISPs love throttling because it drives profits in two key ways:
- It reduces strain on their infrastructure. Less congestion means lower capacity costs.
- It incentivizes customers to upgrade to more expensive plans for faster speeds. Upgrades mean higher subscription revenue.
In other words, throttling balances supply and demand while maximizing profits. Customers frustrated with slow speeds will pay for premium plans to get their bandwidth back.
Some US ISPs also admit to singling out bandwidth-hungry services like Netflix and YouTube. They see it as unfair that these sites profit heavily from ISP network resources.
By throttling streaming speeds, ISPs exert control and can strong-arm these services into paying fees to stop the throttling.
Customers wind up caught in the crossfire between ISPs wanting more profits and sites trying to contain costs.
How to Know If You’re Being Throttled
Before you can prevent throttling, you need to confirm it’s happening. Here are the tell-tale signs your ISP is putting the brakes on your bandwidth:
1. Buffering and Lags When Streaming
The number one red flag is frequent buffering when trying to stream video content. You’ll notice it takes much longer for videos to start playing. And playback is periodically interrupted by endless loading wheels as the video buffers.
Streaming in HD will be difficult or impossible. Streaming on multiple devices simultaneously will exacerbate the problem with more intense lag and interruptions.
Gamers will experience severe lag spikes during online play as latency jumps up due to the throttling. Streaming music may also be impacted.
2. Slow Download and Upload Speeds
Throttling won’t just impact streaming. Your overall internet speeds will take a hit.
Downloads from web browsers can be significantly delayed. Uploading or attaching files to emails is noticeably slower.
File sharing and torrenting files will crawl as your available bandwidth plummets. Online backups to cloud storage like Dropbox slow to a snail’s pace.
3. High Ping Times
One way to test for throttling is to check your ping times. Ping measures the latency in your connection by how long it takes a small data packet to travel to a destination server and back.
High latency equals a laggy connection. For example, ping times above 100ms will noticeably disrupt video calls or online gaming.
To check your ping, you can use the command prompt in Windows or Terminal in Mac. Run continuous pings to a site like Google.com and observe any spikes:
ping google.com -t
Ping spikes that are significantly higher than your normal latency indicate possible throttling. You can also use a dedicated tool like PingPlotter for monitoring.
If you notice these issues consistently during peak evening hours, throttling is likely the culprit.
How to Stop Bandwidth Throttling
Once you confirm throttling, here are effective ways to stop it and bypass the limits:
Use a VPN to Mask Traffic
A virtual private network (VPN) is the go-to solution for defeating throttling and regaining full speeds.
A VPN works by encrypting your internet traffic and routing it through a remote server run by the VPN provider. This does several things:
- It hides your browsing data from your ISP’s view. They can’t identify and throttle specific sites or services.
- It masks your location and IP address. ISPs will have a hard time throttling based on congestion at a given network point.
- VPN encryption overhead slows the ISP’s throttling systems which look for specific traffic patterns.
In short, a VPN makes it very difficult for your ISP to throttle your connection, bypassing the limits. It’s like having a secret, traffic-free tunnel that hides you from the bandwidth bottlenecks.
Switch to an ISP with No Throttling
Some ISPs make a competitive advantage out of not throttling customers. Having “no throttling” right in their advertising.
Switching providers is an option if you have no bandwidth cap in your contract and another ISP services your area.
Research any potential ISP’s policies around throttling, deprioritization, and network management. Ask current customers about their experience during peak times for the unfiltered truth.
Just keep in mind – an ISP with no throttling today doesn’t mean no throttling tomorrow. As networks become congested, throttling can become attractive. Using a VPN hedge your bets regardless of ISP.
File an FCC Complaint
If you believe your ISP’s throttling is unjust or not properly disclosed, you can file an FCC complaint.
The FCC prohibits ISPs from throttling lawful internet traffic on wired broadband networks. Their Open Internet Order only allows “reasonable network management”.
An FCC complaint forces your ISP to respond to the accusation directly. Simply the threat of an investigation works as motivation for ISPs to resolve issues swiftly.
To file a complaint, head to the FCC’s consumer help center.
Limit Bandwidth Use During Peak Hours
If all else fails, limiting your high-bandwidth activities to off-peak hours is an option.
ISP throttling commonly happens in the evenings when everyone is streaming video after work. By shifting to earlier in the day, you can sometimes dodge the throttling.
Schedule downloads, uploads, and streaming to happen after midnight or early morning before most people are active. You’ll essentially be taking advantage of less congested network traffic conditions.
However, this is less feasible if you have a household of people with varying schedules and device needs. Using a VPN gives you the bandwidth freedom to avoid scheduling your internet usage.
Choosing the Best VPN to Stop Bandwidth Throttling
There are many VPN services out there. But not all are created equal when it comes to stopping throttling. Here are the key features to look for:
Fast Server Speeds
A VPN can only mask throttling if their servers have enough bandwidth to deliver fast speeds. The fastest VPNs have servers with multi-Gigabit connectivity and no bandwidth caps.
They strategically choose server locations near major networks hubs for low latency routing. Top-tier servers are a must to avoid new bottlenecks.
VPN encryption is what hides your traffic from your ISP’s throttling systems. Make sure to choose a VPN using protocols like OpenVPN or WireGuard which offer 256-bit AES encryption.
Weak protocols like PPTP are outdated and vulnerable. They won’t shield your traffic adequately.
Strict No-Logging Policy
To ensure privacy from your ISP, the VPN must have a strict no-logging policy on activity data and connection logs.
Without logs, they have nothing to hand over if pressured by authorities or copyright groups.
Allows P2P Traffic
Some VPNs block torrenting and peer-to-peer downloads to avoid copyright headaches.
To avoid any throttling of these large downloads, your VPN must permit P2P traffic.
Works Across All Your Devices
Throttling can impact any internet-connected device from phones to smart TVs. To get full coverage, use a VPN with apps for all major platforms like Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Being able to install the VPN router-wide is also a plus for protecting smart home gadgets.
Bonus: Obfuscated Servers
Advanced VPNs offer obfuscated servers to further hide VPN traffic from restrictive networks.
Although not directly related to throttling, it ensures your VPN use avoids blocks in restricted networks like China.
Extra Tips for Faster Internet Speeds
Stopping throttling is critical. But you can also optimize your home network for faster base speeds:
Update Your Router Firmware
Outdated router firmware can have bugs that hurt performance. Upgrading to the latest firmware improves stability and speed.
Check your router manufacturer’s website for new firmware versions. Just be sure to read the release notes first.
Connect Devices Via Ethernet
For devices close to your router like a home office PC or media center, use ethernet instead of WiFi for the fastest, most stable connection.
Gigabit ethernet avoids any bandwidth sharing and gives you the full speeds coming from your modem.
Limit Devices on Your Network
The more devices using the internet simultaneously, the more bandwidth competition.
Audit devices connected to your network and disable or disconnect ones not frequently used to lighten the load.
Regularly Test Your Internet Speeds
Keep an eye on your internet speeds with free tools like Fast.com and Speedtest.net to check for any degradation.
This also establishes a baseline to compare against after applying throttling prevention methods like a VPN.
Speed tests help detect throttling and allow you to prove it to your ISP when filing complaints.
Regain Your Internet Freedom
Life is too short for endless buffering wheels. With this comprehensive guide, you’re now equipped to identify bandwidth throttling and reclaim faster, unrestricted internet speeds.
A quality VPN is the ultimate solution for taking back control from your ISP. Stop settling for internet that moves at a crawl. Prevent throttling and enjoy smooth streaming, quick downloads, and lag-free gaming again!
What are you looking forward to doing most without throttling? Bingeing your favorite shows in HD? Starting that big download before bed? We’d love to hear how you plan to use your newfound internet freedom!