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.
Am I Being Throttled? This Could Be Why Your Home Internet …
TL;DRThe best way to know if your internet connection is being throttled is to run 2 speed tests: a regular speed test, and then another test using a VPN. If your connection is much faster when the VPN is on, it’s likely that you are being throttled. With so many of us working from home offices these days, a snail-paced internet isn’t fun. Today, we’ll have a look over what data throttling is, why it happens, and how to check if you are being throttled by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Table of Contents What is data throttling? Why do ISPs throttle data? Am I being throttled by my ISP? How to fix data throttling with a VPN I’m not being throttled – why is my internet so slow? Is data throttling legal? What is data throttling? Whilst it’s nice to think of the internet as unlimited, bandwidth is a finite resource. Most ISPs have a policy of “throttling” heavy internet users if they exceed their allotted amount of data. Throttling means they purposely slow down a user’s data transmission. You’ll feel it as a noticeably slower internet connection. Y’know – when Slack messages won’t send, and file sharing makes you want to tear your hair out. Don’t get us started on Zoom calls… It can be frustrating to see your internet at snail speeds with no explanation. Why do ISPs Throttle Data? Your ISP might choose to throttle your bandwidth for a few reasons: 1. High demand due to more people working from home Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ISPs worldwide have been struggling to cope with much higher-than-usual bandwidth demands. They were configured to expect staggered activity times split between home use and office use. COVID-19 has forced much of the global workforce to work from home. The result? A lot more data throttling. By restricting you to certain speeds, ISPs can free up bandwidth for other users sharing the same signal tower. 2. It’s a “high traffic” time Similarly, you’re more likely to be throttled during peak periods. It’s pretty common for internet speeds to drop during times of day when more people are using the internet – for example in the evenings after work hours. 3. You’ve exceeded your data cap As we mentioned, most people do have data limits on their internet. If you exceed your allocated limit, your ISP may need to throttle your connection speed in order to provide high speeds to other customers. 4. Throttling due to the type of content being accessed Out of all the reasons you might be throttled, this is the worst! Sometimes, ISPs may throttle specific websites or services like Netflix or Hulu. This could be because these services take up a lot of bandwidth. But, it can also be because they want these services to pay extra coin for faster load times. If it sounds dodgy, that’s because it is – paid prioritisation was illegal up until 2018 before net neutrality was repealed. Am I being throttled by my ISP? Since some ISPs throttle you based on what content you are accessing, the best way to know if you’re being throttled is to use a VPN. A VPN will help mask your IP address and online activities and thus force your ISP to treat all your content equally. By running a speed test with your VPN on, you’ll then be able to measure your true internet speeds. To test if you’re being throttled, just carry out these 4 steps. Run an internet speed test (using something like). Download and install a good VPN. Run a second speed test with the VPN active. Compare the results to see the difference. If you notice that your internet speed is significantly faster when the VPN is on, there’s a good chance that you are being throttled. How to fix data throttling with a VPN As well as revealing if you are being throttled, a good VPN can also help you to bypass data throttling. To illustrate its effectiveness, I ran a few different VPN brands (including some of our favourites) during the period when I noted my bandwidth being throttled. Here are the results: First, as a baseline gauge, my ISP-advertised bandwidth is 500Mbps both up and down. Here’s how speeds may look if I was connected to a server in France, and my connection was being throttled. Now, let’s have a look at how these speeds change when I activate various VPNs. Here are the results: As you can see, using a VPN clearly helped me skip over the bandwidth restrictions. It worked with each of these major VPN service providers which I tested at the time. While not exactly the same speeds as I normally get, it is still much improved over the 2. 5 Mbps observed without a VPN active. The reason for this is ISPs normally throttle bandwidth selectively. Think of bandwidth as a highway where there are various lanes for traffic. On the Internet highway, there are generally two lanes – fast and slow. Based on their sorting methods, ISPs generally can put your traffic into either of these lanes. VPNs work by creating communications tunnels from your device directly to their servers. Any data you send along these tunnels is also highly encrypted. Because of these things, ISPs won’t know what kind of data you are sending and receiving. Bear in mind though that it won’t always work this way. As you can see, if an ISP can’t tell what kind of data it is working with, sorting normally puts you in the fast lane. However, there are caveats when even a VPN won’t work. If you’re being throttled because you exceeded your data cap, a VPN isn’t going to change this. Other Ways to Fix data throttling If a VPN doesn’t improve your speeds, try doing the following: Monitor your data usage more carefully If your plan comes with a cap, try to monitor how much data you’re using. If you’re reaching your data cap before the end of the month, go easy on data-heavy activities like torrenting. If you find yourself repeatedly going over your plan, you should switch to a plan with more data allowance. Change your internet service provider Not all ISPs come equal. Some are more prone to throttle users. If you find yourself throttled repeatedly, shop around for another ISP that offers higher data caps. I’m not being throttled – why is my internet so slow? Maybe the tests have shown you’re not being throttled. But your internet is still slow – now what? Here are some tips to try and speed up your connection: Check for Throttling Checklist Turn your router on and off again. Move your router to a more open location in the house. Disconnect any other devices that might be sucking up bandwidth. Connect using an ethernet cable instead of WiFi. Call your ISP to see if the service is down. Check your modem and router aren’t too old for your current internet plan. That’s just the start – we’ve written an in-depth article here with 16 ways to speed up your internet connection. If after all that you’re still experiencing slow internet, there’s a good chance you’re being throttled. Is data throttling Legal? Unfortunately, internet throttling IS legal in most cases. In the past, US courts ruled that companies couldn’t use ‘internet fast lanes’ to prioritise certain streams of data. But since the repeal of net neutrality in 2018, there are no longer many legal protections against selective throttling. These days, ISPs are generally supposed to inform customers when they throttle connections due to exceeding their data cap. In regards to prioritizing content and charging for priority connections – there aren’t many rules. Thankfully, public outrage has generally helped to keep many ISPs from going overboard. Power to the peeps! Beat the Throttle! If you’ve ever wondered ‘am I being throttled? ’, there’s a good chance of the answer being ‘yes’ since COVID-19 began. With luck, ISPs will eventually normalize their operations. But, it’s realistic to assume that data throttling may continue for a while longer. I highly recommend that you try using a VPN to work around bandwidth restrictions. That way, you’ll be able to work with peace of mind from anywhere you choose. About The Author Daren Low is the founder of With over a decade’s experience in website development and internet marketing, Daren is a top authority on anything to do with building and managing an online business. Pick his brain today by connecting via Linkedin and Twitter.
‘Unlimited’ Cellular Data Throttling Investigation – ForThePeople.com
‘Unlimited’ Cellular Data Throttling Investigation
It has been alleged that a number of cell phone providers misled their customers by advertising plans for “unlimited” Internet data that was later slowed down – often to inoperable speeds. Customers are complaining that their cell phone providers are slowing down their Internet speeds without notice after using a certain amount of data in a billing cycle, rendering the devices useless for days or weeks at a time before their next billing cycle begins. At Morgan & Morgan, our lawyers investigated these claims, as we believe these customers may be able to take legal action against their providers.
Is Data Throttling Illegal?
Cell phone providers can legally throttle customers’ Internet speeds to
reduce congestion during peak hours or in densely populated cities;
however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has
said that throttling may become illegal if companies limit their
customers’ Internet speeds in a “deceptive or unfair” fashion, including
by calling a plan “unlimited” and later throttling – or limiting –
AT&T Facing Lawsuit for Throttling Users’ “Unlimited” Data
In October 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit
against AT&T after nearly 200, 000 customers complained that the
company throttled their “unlimited” data plans after they used a certain
amount of gigabytes (GB) in a billing cycle.
The lawsuit alleges that:
Despite advertising certain data plans as “unlimited, ” AT&T failed
to adequately disclose that it would limit or slow down customers’
AT&T failed to specify when customers’ “unlimited” data would be
After a certain amount of data (ranging between 3 and 5 GB) was used,
AT&T would slow down Internet speeds
Most “unlimited” data customers were not notified by text message or
email when they were approaching the data usage threshold that would
result in throttling
“Unlimited” data customers had their Internet speeds reduced between
80 and 95 percent during throttling, which often rendered their
devices inoperable for days or weeks until their next billing cycles
Customers who canceled their wireless plans with AT&T after having
their “unlimited” data throttled were forced to pay hundreds of
dollars in early contract termination fees
According to the lawsuit, AT&T throttled its customers’ data more
than 25 million times since October 2011, affecting more than 3. 5
million customers. The lawsuit is seeking to stop AT&T from
advertising its data plans as “unlimited” if users will be subject to
reduced Internet speeds after using a certain amount of GB of data per
billing period. Furthermore, the FTC is seeking compensation on behalf
of customers whose “unlimited” plans were throttled and who were forced
to pay contract termination fees when canceling their accounts with
Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint Throttle “Unlimited” Data, Customers Complain
Consumers are complaining that numerous cell phone providers are
misleading their customers by advertising “unlimited” data that is
subject to throttling. While some customers complain that the throttling
they’ve experienced prevents them from surfing the web and checking
email, others claim that the slow Internet speeds prevent them from
using critical services such as GPS. Furthermore, certain “unlimited”
data customers who use their data while commuting to work complain that
they spend additional money for services such as Netflix and Hulu, but
are prevented from using these features on their cell phones when their
data is throttled.
The following wireless providers have been accused of data throttling:
Frequently Asked Questions about how to know if my internet is being throttled
How can I tell if my internet is being throttled?
The best way to know if your internet connection is being throttled is to run 2 speed tests: a regular speed test, and then another test using a VPN. If your connection is much faster when the VPN is on, it’s likely that you are being throttled.Oct 14, 2021
Is throttling WIFI illegal?
Cell phone providers can legally throttle customers’ Internet speeds to reduce congestion during peak hours or in densely populated cities; however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said that throttling may become illegal if companies limit their customers’ Internet speeds in a “deceptive or unfair” fashion, …