ISP Throttling: What is it & How to Stop it | Avast
What is throttling?
ISP throttling is when your internet service provider (ISP) deliberately restricts your internet bandwidth or speed without telling you. Internet throttling results in speeds slower than what your ISP should be serving you. ISPs use throttling to control internet traffic over their network, reduce bandwidth congestion, and enforce data limits.
Throttling isn’t necessarily bad. If several customers are using the same cell tower, throttling helps equally distribute that bandwidth. Without realizing it, you may have benefited from a throttled internet connection.
Despite pressures on ISPs to inform customers, it’s not always clear if your internet has been throttled. During times of high traffic, ISPs can throttle those they deem “heavy” internet users — but most people don’t fit this criteria.
Slow internet isn’t automatically due to internet throttling. Try speeding up your internet connection yourself or boosting your phone’s internet speed before jumping to conclusions.
Why do ISPs throttle internet?
ISPs throttle the internet mainly to regulate network traffic and clear up network congestion. ISPs can also throttle users when they reach a data usage limit within a fixed period. Throttling gets more questionable when ISPs use it to influence your internet habits and profit off of you.
Here are the most common reasons why ISPs throttle your internet connection:
Some ISPs — especially mobile providers — limit the amount of high-speed data you can access every month. If you get near that data cap, you might experience data throttling, resulting in reduced speeds.
ISPs must state any data caps in your service agreement. If you think you’re experiencing ISP throttling, look at your plan and see whether a data cap is the culprit.
When a network becomes crowded with people trying to connect, ISPs use bandwidth throttling to regulate traffic. That way, all customers in a given area can access the network — instead of some getting full access, while others get nothing.
ISPs can also throttle your internet when certain types of data, like large files or torrents, take up too much bandwidth. Your ISP can restrict your bandwidth, even if you already paid for it, simply because your activity is straining their network.
Unfortunately, throttling the internet is not always about bandwidth distribution. ISPs can throttle specific websites or applications — like Netflix or Amazon Prime — to discourage you from using them.
That pushes customers toward other streaming services, like the ones affiliated with the ISP, or forces companies to pay more for faster load times for their customers. Those added costs can be passed down to you. In countries without net neutrality, throttling is fair game.
Thankfully, you can fight content-based internet throttling with a VPN — while it can’t hide your overall bandwidth usage, a VPN encrypts your internet traffic, which can prevent ISPs from throttling you based on the sites you visit online.
With Avast SecureLine VPN, you can evade your ISP and push back against throttling, all while enjoying world-class protection and privacy from threats, hackers, and scammers. Try a free 7-day trial today.
How to tell if your internet is being throttled
It’s not always clear if your internet is being throttled — many factors can contribute to slow internet speeds. While there’s no specific internet throttling test, you can use the following techniques to see if your ISP is throttling your connection.
Here’s how to test for ISP throttling:
1. Test internet speed
Testing your internet speed tells you if you’re getting the speed you’re paying for. Internet speed testing tools like the one maintained by Google’s Measurement Lab can calculate your current speed, which you can then compare with your data plan.
Because internet speeds fluctuate, run multiple tests throughout the day and calculate an average. And remember that Wi-Fi connections tend to be slower than Ethernet connections.
Test your internet connection with a speed test tool.
Do the tests show that your internet speed is fine, while your computer’s generally slow? It’s possible that you have a system problem on your hands, and not a throttling issue. Try speeding up your PC, streamlining your Mac, or accelerating your iOS device.
2. Run a port scanner test
A port is where your computer (or a program) connects to another computer on the internet, like servers for games or messaging apps. ISPs keep tabs on port activity, and can throttle this data if they see fit.
If you use open ports for gaming, you can use a port scanner to check specific ports for throttling with a variety of scans.
Using a port scanner to check for ISP internet throttling.
3. Compare your speed with a VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your internet connection so you can anonymously surf the web, and it hides your IP address so ISPs can’t track your online activity. VPNs can also help unblock restricted websites.
Fighting internet throttling is another reason why you need to use a VPN to stay safe and secure online.
A VPN encrypts your internet connection so you can browse the web anonymously.
After using a speed testing tool to check your internet speed, check it again with a VPN — a slight speed drop when using a VPN is normal. Since a VPN hides your IP address from your ISP, you’ll get an accurate reading of your actual internet speed. If there’s a big difference, your ISP might be throttling data.
While setting up your own personal VPN can be tricky, Avast SecureLine VPN makes it easy. You can download our VPN for Windows or get our VPN for Mac.
In one click, get comprehensive privacy and security with our top-rated VPN. With a secure, encrypted connection, you can conceal your online activity from your ISP, advertisers, hackers and other prying eyes. Enjoy real digital privacy for all your devices today.
How to stop ISP throttling
If you’ve run speed tests and think your ISP is throttling your internet, here are some ways to stop ISP internet throttling:
Monitor your monthly data usage. Your ISP is not always at fault for internet speed throttling. If your service plan allots a set amount of data per month, monitor your usage to avoid throttling and overage fees. Avoid heavy data-consuming activities like streaming video, if you can. Or install an app that helps you track data usage.
Although risky in terms of privacy and security, safely connecting to a public Wi-Fi network can also help curb data usage.
Switch to a new internet provider. If you’re frustrated with your ISP, switch to another if you can. Depending on where you live, there may be other service providers competing for your business. Consider what you need from an ISP and shop around.
Remember: ISPs must tell you about data caps and bandwidth limits. Choose an ISP that serves you, and not the other way around.
Use a VPN. If you don’t want to switch providers, a VPN can help you avoid content-based throttling. Your internet speed may drop slightly, but it’s nothing compared to internet throttling. Plus, there are always ways to speed up a VPN.
Note: Avoid using free VPNs. These services are free because of ads or data collection and web tracking. And they usually lack secure protocols. If your aim is to keep your system secure, a free VPN is usually counterproductive.
Is throttling illegal?
Internet throttling is not illegal. You can benefit from throttling when it regulates overburdened networks and helps equally distribute bandwidth among customers. Overall, throttling internet speeds usually results in a more consistent connection for you.
Throttling and net neutrality
Net neutrality laws enable a free and open internet in which ISPs must treat all content and traffic equally. But internet privacy laws vary among countries, and some (like the US) have repealed net neutrality. In those countries, some of the shadier aspects of internet throttling are, by law, legitimate.
ISPs can throttle specific kinds of content, which affects what their customers can do online.
With throttling, ISPs can also charge higher fees for some internet services, like streaming providers — who may pass on these increased costs to you.
By throttling customers on lower-priced plans, ISPs can incentivize people to switch to more expensive data plans.
Net neutrality advocates believe that a free and open internet offers the best opportunities for innovation. When ISPs disregard net neutrality and manipulate the internet for profit, they limit the internet’s ability to grow and create the next best thing.
Bypass throttling with trusted VPN software
While not always bad, internet throttling has considerable downsides. Through throttling, ISPs have the potential to influence what you do online — restricting a free and open internet. Plus, they can deny you the speed you already pay for through your service agreement.
Encrypt your connection, protect your privacy, and hide from your ISP with a VPN.
You can bypass some of the more frustrating aspects of ISP throttling with Avast SecureLine VPN. Our bank-grade encryption technology hides your traffic from your ISP and keeps you safe from hackers, advertisers, and more.
Privately and securely connect to the internet without anyone watching over you. Plus, access all your favorite websites and content at lightning fast speeds around the world. With a free 7-day trial, you can enjoy the internet you deserve today.
How Can I Tell If My ISP Is Throttling My Internet?
Aug 23, 2021 Share
FAQ, Internet Speed Guides
To determine if your internet service provider (ISP) is throttling your internet connection, plug a computer into your modem and run our speed test. After that, open a virtual private network (VPN) client—we provide a list of the best VPNs—and rerun the test. If your connection is significantly faster while using the VPN, your ISP is likely throttling your service.
This trick works because ISPs sometimes throttle your speeds when they notice certain types of traffic, like torrenting. However, a VPN encrypts your data and connection, so the ISP can’t see what you’re doing online.
Of course, there are reasons for slower speeds other than ISP throttling, like traffic congestion and general connection issues. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about internet bandwidth throttling to determine if that is indeed your issue.
Throttling is when your ISP intentionally limits your connection’s bandwidth. Providers do this for several reasons, and it usually manifests as a sloth-like connection.
Why do ISPs throttle your connection?
ISPs have many reasons for throttling your internet connection. But these are the top four culprits:
Exceeding data caps
Cable internet providers sometimes throttle a specific area during times of heavy use. Throttling balances all connections so that certain houses don’t use more network bandwidth than others. Peak times likely happen between 7:00 p. m. to 11:00 p. m., although service group congestion is less of an issue now than it has been in recent years.
Some ISPs limit how much data you can send and receive during one billing cycle. They will reduce your bandwidth if your downloads exceed that limit.
Keep in mind that everything you access online requires a download, whether it’s just a web page, a mobile app, or streaming video. Moreover, everything you do requires an upload, too, like requesting access to a website, sending an email, posting to social media, and so on.
All this interaction with the internet uses your monthly data allotment. ISPs usually offer a way to monitor your data usage through an online portal, so you don’t go overboard throughout the month.
Any ISP that enforces a data cap must include that information in your service agreement. So, if you’re experiencing throttling, take a look at your contract or call customer service.
Here’s a list of internet service providers with data caps:
A few internet providers without data caps are Spectrum, Frontier, and RCN.
Some bandwidth throttling has nothing to do with your specific web surfing habits. Here are a few examples:
An ISP provides a proprietary streaming service and will throttle Netflix, Hulu, and similar services.
An ISP wants a specific website to pay for faster load times.
Certain types of data—large downloads, torrents, FTP file sharing—use a lot of bandwidth and put pressure on the network.
All of this is good for ISP but terrible for consumers. Moreover, paid prioritization used to be illegal until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the net neutrality laws in 2018.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the idea that your ISP shouldn’t control what you can and can’t access on the internet. With net neutrality, all ISPs must treat lawful internet data equally.
The legislation was passed in 2015 in the US to protect net neutrality. But those protections were repealed in 2018, leaving control of the internet up to corporations who greatly benefit from practices that hurt the free internet and everyone who uses the internet—things like paid prioritization, censorship, and throttling.
We support net neutrality because a free and open internet is imperative to free speech in America.
Contact your Senator to support net neutrality and the Save the Internet Act.
ISPs can throttle internet connections when the customer participates in illegal online activities.
How do I stop throttling?
Use a VPN to bypass ISP throttling. It creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between you and a dedicated server. This server then decrypts your data and sends it to the destination in plaintext. This data does not include your IP address or any other information that can link back to you.
However, some ISPs may throttle your bandwidth if they detect your VPN (some VPNs can ignore this). Be sure that you’re using the best VPN for your needs, as the wrong one can make your internet throttling issues worse.
Unfortunately, a VPN won’t help with throttling caused by network congestion or data cap overages. In these cases, your ISP restricts the total amount of bandwidth rather than a specific type of data.
If your throttling issues stem from data cap overages, you have four options:
Reduce your monthly usage.
Pay for more bandwidth.
Upgrade to a plan with a higher data cap or unlimited data.
Switch to a provider without data caps.
If you have cable internet and you experience slow speeds during peak hours, try one of the following:
Upgrade to a faster plan
Use the internet during off-peak hours
For example, try downloading large files between 11 p. and 7 a. when most of your neighbors are asleep. On the flip side, if you’re only paying for 100 Mbps and you need more speed, a 400 Mbps plan may be a better option.
Monitor your download speeds often—especially if you notice continuously slow speeds. Complain to your ISP if you don’t see speeds anywhere near your plan’s advertised bandwidth. You may not get the response you want, but you could also hit the jackpot and receive a free upgrade.
Is your ISP is too throttle-happy for your liking? You should look into other options by entering your zip code below.
Other reasons for slow internet
Beyond ISP throttling, there are plenty of reasons for slow internet.
First, check the health of your home network if you’ve already ruled out external factors like ISP throttling.
Second, your plan may not supply enough bandwidth to your household. As we rely on the internet more and more for everything from home security to entertainment, it’s easy to grow out of the internet plan you signed up for a few years ago.
If you’re not sure how much bandwidth you need, start with a speed test. We’ll give you a quick, personalized speed recommendation based on how you use your connection for.
How much speed do you need?
Author – Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.
Editor – Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she’s edited all things internet for for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she’s not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.
How to Tell if Your Internet Is Being Throttled – BroadbandNow
The bottom line: throttling is frequent on mobile and wireless services, but not very common with cable, DSL, or fiber. The only way to reliably test if you’re being throttled is with a VPN service. If you want to know if your internet is being throttled, you can follow these simple steps:
1. Run an internet speed test
2. Download and activate a reputable VPN
3. Run another speed test to see if you get a different result
If your network is being throttled, your speed will dramatically improve once you activate a reliable VPN. If you notice no change, there is likely another reason behind your slow internet speeds.
Believe it or not, internet bandwidth is never truly unlimited. The signal being sent to your devices is coming from a single cell tower that is shared with many other individuals simultaneously.
For this reason, internet service providers (ISPs) may sometimes “throttle, ” or limit, your usage to certain speeds without expressly telling you when they are doing it in order to free up bandwidth for others connected to the same tower.
Typically, ISPs only throttle what they consider to be a “heavy” internet user — as per their own definition — during “times of high traffic. ”
A typical internet user will likely never experience network throttling. If your internet is slow, there may be another reason behind it.
It’s frustrating to run a speed test and see that you’re getting less speed than you’re paying for. The question is: are you being throttled? Or is it some other issue?
What Is Throttling Data?
Throttling is the process of an ISP purposely slowing down an internet user’s data transmission. Sometimes you’ll see lower speeds that are difficult to explain and aren’t attributed to equipment issues. You won’t always receive a clear notification that your connection is throttled despite rules that pressure telecom companies to inform you, so the uncertainty regarding your slower connection can be incredibly frustrating.
Currently, you’ll usually see a throttling of your entire connection, but with the repeal of Net Neutrality, some people worry that ISPs may start throttling specific types of content. This is not yet a common issue.
Why Do ISPs Throttle Data?
There are multiple reasons why an ISP might throttle data:
1. You have met your data limit. Many people have data limits on their internet connections. When they exceed the allotted amount of data, their speeds will often be drastically reduced. Instead of cutting off access to internet service completely, ISPs instead prioritize customers that are within the terms of their plan. The slower speeds can be incredibly annoying, but it’s definitely preferable to losing the ability to surf the web completely.
2. You are connected during a “high traffic” time. While bandwidth isn’t usually an issue for major internet providers, the fact remains that it is a finite resource. With extremely heavy data use that exceeds allowances, ISPs may need to throttle some connections in order to provide high speeds to the rest of their customers.
3. Your ISP is choosing to throttle your specific activity. With the repeal of Net Neutrality, the ability of an ISP to throttle may be expanded, adding the ability to throttle specific types of content or to charge higher fees to major data users such as streaming services like Netflix. If costs are increased dramatically for these content providers, the costs of paying off ISPs may be passed down to you.
How To Check If Your ISP Is Throttling Bandwidth
Note that throttling results in extremely low download speeds, while more common issues like Netflix congestion only cause a 10–40% speed reduction.
The most obvious way to tell if your internet is being throttled would be to run a free speed test available online. Unfortunately, most internet providers can detect speed tests and artificially inflate your speeds to make it appear that they’re not throttling you.
So, a speed test isn’t a foolproof way to identify internet throttling.
The only reliable method of checking whether your connection is throttled is through a Virtual Private Network, also known as a VPN.
ISPs may sometimes throttle only specific types of content, and a VPN can make this practice next to impossible by masking your IP address and activities from your ISP.
With your ISP forced to treat all of your content equally due to the inability to discern what sort of websites you’re viewing, you should then be able to measure your true speeds using an online speed test.
So, to reiterate, you can tell if your internet is being throttled by following these steps:
If your speeds are significantly lower than normal and you can’t explain the problem after following the steps in the troubleshooting section below, the odds are that your connection is being throttled.
How To Fix Data Throttling
Thankfully, there are a couple of practical steps you can take to fix internet throttling:
1. Monitor your monthly data usage. If you’ve exceeded your data limit on a capped plan, you can usually avoid the issue by better monitoring your usage moving forward or switching to a plan with higher data allowances. If your data is supposed to be “unlimited, ” however, there may not be an easy fix.
2. Sign up for a reputable VPN. A good VPN may be able to provide you a solution to internet throttling. If a VPN cannot solve the issue, you may need to resort to one of the next two steps. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that many large online services such as Netflix and Hulu are getting better at detecting VPNs and may restrict you from using their services if they cannot determine your location.
3. Switch to a new internet service provider. Some ISPs are more notorious when it comes to slowing down its users, and almost every ISP has a different data cap in its terms. If you are constantly being throttled, you may want to sign up with another internet service provider that has a significantly higher data cap.
4. Express your concerns to government representatives. If these solutions don’t work for you, the only real recourse that remains is to try to convince representatives and Federal Communications Commission officials to fight for a more open internet. By submitting an FCC comment voicing your concerns or contacting your congressperson, you can add your voice to the many fighting against predatory throttling and content prioritization.
Why Is My Internet Slow?
Throttling is one of many potential bottlenecks that can slow down a consumer Internet connection.
If you’ve gone through the appropriate tests and determined that your internet isn’t being throttled, or you simply aren’t convinced one way or the other, there are other tests you can perform to find the true cause.
Here are a few reasons why your internet could be slow:
Your modem and router are old or outdated. Most of the time, the issue is something to do with your modem and router — they might need a restart, or be too old to function properly.
You’re connected during “high traffic” hours. The second most common issue is “peak use” slowdowns from other customers. It’s normal for cable Internet to slow down around 30% from 5–9 PM when everyone in the neighborhood starts their nightly Netflix binge.
WiFi connections are slower than Ethernet. Finally, keep in mind that it’s normal for Internet connections to slow down when you’re on WiFi vs. plugged in with Ethernet. Connect your computer to the router with Ethernet and run a speed test to see if the speed is still reduced.
Go through the checklist below to check if there’s another issue before assuming you’re being throttled:
Check for Throttling Checklist
Reset your router. Occasionally, the equipment just needs a reboot to get your connection back up to speed.
Connect via Ethernet cable to see if it’s a problem with your WiFi
Connect via another device to see if the problem is isolated to one computer.
Check for viruses with a reputable antivirus and malware scanner
Call your service provider to see if they can detect a technical issue.
To continue trying to diagnose your connection issues in greater detail, you can check out our more comprehensive WiFi troubleshooting guide.
If you’ve run through the checklist above and you’re still experiencing connection issues, it’s possible that your connection is being throttled.
Is Internet Throttling Legal?
Is throttling legal? As of 2018, there aren’t many legal protections against throttling, although consumer outrage when ISPs do throttle specific services generally keeps the practice in check.
In most cases, the throttling of an internet connection is legal. One common reason that data is throttled is due to excess use on a plan with a data cap. In almost all cases, ISPs are obligated to inform consumers when they throttle connections.
Back in 2015, US courts ruled that companies could not prioritize different streams of data with “internet fast lanes, ” or penalize customers for not upgrading to a faster plan.
With the repeal of Net Neutrality, these provisions have basically been gutted, making regulations around selective throttling nearly non-existent.
Despite the repeal of these protections, ISPs generally still have to inform customers when they throttle data. Outside of the obligation to provide notification, however, these companies now have much fewer limits when it comes to prioritizing content and charging customers for priority connections.
Many ISPs have made a pledge to treat the greater freedom responsibly, in spite of past issues with blocking select services.
Frequently Asked Questions about broadband throttling
Is throttling internet Illegal?
In most cases, the throttling of an internet connection is legal. One common reason that data is throttled is due to excess use on a plan with a data cap. … Despite the repeal of these protections, ISPs generally still have to inform customers when they throttle data.Oct 12, 2021
How do I bypass throttling?
Bypass ISP Throttling on iPhone or AndroidChoose a VPN with a great smartphone app. … Download and install the application on your iPhone or Android device.Connect to the appropriate VPN server.Enjoy fast, stable browsing on any app or website.Sep 23, 2021
How can I tell if I am being throttled?
Check your data cap Usually, internet providers throttle your speed when you’ve reached your data cap. You can see how much data you’ve used by logging into your account or calling your ISP. If you’ve hit your cap, it’s safe to assume your internet is being throttled.Feb 16, 2021