What is ISP Bandwidth Throttling? Tom October 9, 2018 Entertainment, Technology While many people are unfamiliar with the term bandwidth throttling, most of us are victims of this unfair activity. Bandwidth throttling basically means slowing down your Internet speed and available bandwidth. Internet service providers use throttling to make up for their lack of capacity or, as most of them put it, to make Internet usage fair for everyone. This purposeful act of slowing down your Internet speed and even restricting access to specific pages can take place on both mobile devices and desktop computers. While this certainly is frustrating for the users, ISPs largely benefit from it. For example, they might use bandwidth throttling at peak times when the largest number of users is surfing the Internet. The more people are accessing the Internet at the same time, the more capacity is required from the service provider. However, not all providers can handle high traffic, so what they do is slow down everyone’s Internet speed to prevent their network from being overwhelmed. This way they can also avoid the necessity of investing in faster and more expensive equipment. Besides slowing down the Internet speed when the network is overcrowded, many ISPs throttle their users` bandwidth during specific activities, such as downloading or uploading large amounts of data. That is why you may notice the Internet speed going down when downloading a movie or streaming a Netflix show. Some ISPs even go further than this and begin slowing down the Internet speed for all types of activities after the user has reached a certain bandwidth limit. However, this is usually stated in ISP contracts that contain FUP (Fair Usage Policy). This policy dictates that if the user goes over the data limitation within one month, their connection will be throttled the following month, which supposedly makes using the Internet fair for everyone. Not only intentional bandwidth throttling causes a lot of frustration, it also raises privacy concerns. You may not have thought about it, but your ISP can see everything you do online – this is how they know at what time is the best to slow down your internet. Although user tracking is not illegal, ISPs often use additional spying methods, such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI for short), to monitor user’s activity, which is clearly an invasion of privacy. A lot of Internet service providers have been accused of using bandwidth throttling to their advantage. For example, a report from 2007 shows proof that an ISP known as Comcast used to throttle bandwidth and specifically slow down the Internet speed for BitTorrent users. Another ISP that interfered with BitTorrent traffic is Cox Communications, as reported in 2008. There is no doubt that many Internet service providers are still using this method to make up for their lack of capacity and there’s nothing we can do to stop them. Furthermore, the recent drama over Net Neutrality has brought even more attention to purposeful throttling. With the abolition of Net Neutrality rules, we might witness ISPs fully controlling the Internet: from slowing down our connection speeds to deciding which sites we can and cannot access. In this case, ISPs would most likely limit our access to certain sites owned by their competition, while allowing fast access to the sites they own, which would mean the end of the free Internet as we know it. How to Tell if Your Bandwidth is Being Throttled? If you’re concerned that bandwidth throttling might be the reason why you are experiencing slow connection speeds, the best way to know it for sure is to run an Internet speed test. To tell whether your ISP is intentionally throttling your bandwidth, you should conduct the speed test a few times throughout the month. Pay attention to the test results as the month approaches to its end. If you notice the Internet speed significantly slowing down near the ending of the month, you may be right – bandwidth throttling is responsible for your slow connection. How to Avoid Bandwidth Throttling The best and often the only way to avoid bandwidth throttling is to use of a virtual private network (VPN). If switching to a more reliable ISP is not an option, consider using a trusted VPN service, which uses strong encryption and offers the fastest speed in the market. By using a VPN you will be able to hide your activities from your Internet service provider and, since they won’t know whether you’re streaming a movie or downloading a file, they won’t be able to throttle your bandwidth. Conclusion There’s no way to know for sure what to expect when it comes to bandwidth throttling after the Net Neutrality rules get overthrown. We might be facing a whole new kind of era where access to the Internet will be restricted and limited to certain users and locations, ending the free Internet forever. For now, stay informed on the topic and invest in a reliable VPN service to avoid the frustrating bandwidth throttling.