‘Unlimited’ Cellular Data Throttling Investigation
‘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:
How to Tell if Your Internet Is Being Throttled – Broadband Now
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.
How to Bypass Bandwidth Limit Restrictions in 2021 [Full Speed]
Table of ContentsHow to Bypass Bandwidth Limit Restrictions (ISP Throttling)Why Do Internet Service Providers Throttle User Bandwidth? The 3 Best VPNs to Bypass Bandwidth Throttling1. ExpressVPN2. NordVPN3. CyberGhostFinal Thoughts
Do you experience slothy connections that come out of nowhere when streaming movies or NBA playoffs online? That’s bandwidth throttling: when your internet service provider (ISP) slows down your connection based on what you’re watching. Fortunately, you can get around ISP throttling when you learn how to bypass the bandwidth limit with a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN sends your traffic through an encrypted tunnel, preventing the ISP from seeing the websites you visit. When the ISP is blind to your online activity, it no longer selects you for throttling for viewing specific VPN is the best VPN to bypass ISP throttling because it’s the most secure VPN and delivers unparalleled speeds. A VPN doesn’t help bypass bandwidth throttling caused by network congestion or data cap overages.
A VPN gets around this anti-consumer practice, enabling you to enjoy an unrestricted online experience. In this article, we’ll use ExpressVPN — the best VPN provider — to demonstrate how you can skirt around throttling with a VPN. Keep reading also to learn why ISPs limit your bandwidth.
There’s no way to lift an internet bandwidth limit. Not even a VPN can help. The only way around the limit is upgrading to a higher internet plan or switching a reliable VPN is the fail-safe way to bypass bandwidth If you’re on a 5 Mbps internet plan, using a VPN won’t make your internet connection though you could use a proxy server to try to avoid ISP throttling, a VPN is by far the best solution because it provides better security. You can even try a good free VPN, like Windscribe.
How to Bypass Bandwidth Limit Restrictions (ISP Throttling)
There are various reasons why ISPs limit your bandwidth (which we’ll talk about later). The gist of it is that it sees you using a lot of bandwidth — by streaming HD videos, downloading torrents or a number of other things — so it slows your connection down. When the ISP uses bandwidth throttling against you, you should take action. If you can’t change your ISP, your next best option is to use a VPN.
The Tor browser can also help you get around ISP throttling, but it’s super slow, which defeats the purpose. This leaves the VPN as the surefire way to easily bypass bandwidth throttling without putting further strain on your connection. So, how does a VPN prevent bandwidth throttling?
How a VPN prevents ISP throttling.
A VPN reroutes all of your internet traffic through its servers to anonymize everything you do online. This gives ISPs no chance to know when you visit bandwidth-heavy sites, like Netflix. ISPs prioritize throttling for users engaging in streaming or torrenting activities, so with a VPN you won’t be on the high-priority list. This saves you from content-based internet throttling.
Bypass ISP Throttling Your Internet Traffic: Use a VPN
For a VPN to effectively bypass bandwidth throttling, it should come packed with security features, like AES 256-bit encryption and strong VPN protocols. ExpressVPN is our favorite VPN here at Cloudwards, which is why we’ll use it to show you how to get around ISP throttling.
Subscribe to the VPN of Your ChoiceHead over to your chosen VPN’s website, pick a suitable pricing plan and complete the signup wnload and Install the VPN Go to your account dashboard and enter the ExpressVPN verification code sent to your email. Select the right app for your device, depending on your operating system, and download it. Next, locate and double-click the installation file, and then click “install” to start the in to the VPN AppOnce the app is installed on your device, sign in and enter your mplete the SetupIf the VPN has any extra steps for you, such as choosing some initial preferences, follow along with the installation nnect to a Preferred Server LocationNext, you need to choose a server to establish a connection. For example, if you want to watch movies on U. S. streaming sites, connect to a VPN server in the U. Otherwise, just use the server closest to you for the best Throttling-Free StreamingThat’s it. Once connected, just hop over to your channel of choice — whether it’s Netflix or Amazon Prime Video — and start streaming videos. With a VPN, you’ll no longer face ISP throttling, as it sends all of your traffic through an encrypted tunnel.
Why Do Internet Service Providers Throttle User Bandwidth?
Your ISP may decide to impose bandwidth throttling when it notices you’re engaging in activities like streaming or torrenting. By limiting download speeds for bandwidth-intensive websites, ISPs reduce bandwidth usage on the network. That enables the ISP to serve more internet users without increasing its network capacity.
You could have also gone over your data usage limit. Some ISPs won’t disconnect your internet altogether when you exceed the set data caps. Instead, they keep you connected but throttle your internet speed to prioritize users that are still within their data limit.
Beyond that, ISPs may throttle connections during “internet rush hour” to ease congestion over the network. Generally, the ISPs throttle the internet connection of anyone consuming a lot of bandwidth to enable other users in the area to get regular services.
The 3 Best VPNs to Bypass Bandwidth Throttling
A VPN helps bypass throttling because it prevents your ISP from detecting where your traffic originates. Here are the top three services that can stop ISPs from throttling your internet speeds.
ExpressVPN — Stellar security and lightning-fast speedsNordVPN — Top-notch security and obfuscated VPN serversCyberGhost — Affordable and streaming- and torrenting-optimized VPN servers
We’ll discuss each provider’s strengths (and weaknesses, if any), starting with ExpressVPN — our best VPN service to circumvent ISP throttling.
ExpressVPN offers all the features you need to bypass throttling and stream videos without buffering.
More details about ExpressVPN:
Pricing: $6. 67 per month, plus three months free on the yearly planProvider website:
Excellent security & privacyIncredibly fast connection speedsUnlimited bandwidth
ExpressVPN is the best VPN to stop ISP throttling, thanks to its strong digital security and blazing-fast speeds. It barely puts a dent in your browsing speed, and being our best VPN for streaming, it unblocks pretty much any streaming site. Using AES 256-bit encryption and a variety of VPN protocols, it ensures your activity stays private.
Besides that, ExpressVPN uses a private domain name system (DNS) on every server to prevent DNS leaks. Doing so prevents your internet provider from seeing the type of websites you visit based on your browser’s DNS requests. Plus, ExpressVPN has a strict no-logs policy to put your mind at ease.
It’s a little more expensive than the rest of our picks, but the value it offers more than makes up for the higher price tag. Read our ExpressVPN review for more information.
NordVPN’s real forte is security, which comes in handy when bypassing ISP throttling.
More details about NordVPN:
Pricing: $4. 13 per month on the two-year plan Provider website:
Stellar securityObfuscated serversSmartplay technology
Inconsistent speeds across locations
NordVPN is another good VPN provider to defeat ISP throttling. With over 5, 300 servers, NordVPN ensures you have a server that’s geographically close to you for faster connections.
Though it doesn’t match ExpressVPN’s speed consistency over longer distances, it makes sure you can access any geoblocked content using the “smartplay” feature.
NordVPN’s obfuscated servers conceal your VPN usage, making it look like you’re not using a VPN at all. Plus, most importantly, they make it impossible for the ISP to distinguish bandwidth-heavy traffic from simple web browsing. NordVPN is also our best VPN for torrenting, plus it’s more affordable than ExpressVPN. You can read more about it in our NordVPN review.
Besides helping you bypass data throttling, CyberGhost provides streaming- and torrenting-optimized servers for an excellent online experience.
More details about CyberGhost:
Pricing: $2. 25 per month, plus three months free on the three-year plan Provider website:
Strong online securityOver 7, 300 servers worldwideStreaming & torrenting friendly serversAffordable VPN
Not particularly fastInconsistent access to streaming services, except Netflix
CyberGhost is a cheap VPN solution to ISP throttling. It has more than 7, 000 servers across 91 countries, with a special focus in the U. S., UK and Germany. CyberGhost offers many specialty servers, like the NoSpy servers, that deliver strong data encryption and greater anonymity to keep your traffic out of an ISP’s reach.
CyberGhost also offers torrenting-optimized servers, which facilitate seamless and secure torrent downloads. However, one big disappointment is that in our testing, CyberGhost — despite its streaming-optimized servers — could access Netflix but not Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or BBC iPlayer. Read more about it in our CyberGhost review.
Can You Use a Free VPN to Bypass ISP Throttling?
Technically, yes, you can use a free VPN to get around ISP throttling, but only if you find a reliable free VPN, and those are hard to come by. You’ll rarely find a free VPN with security features to send your traffic via a truly secure tunnel. Some may sell your data to third parties or leak it on the internet, despite promising to never keep any user activity logs.
That said, some VPNs, like Windscribe, offer reliable free plans. We vouch for Windscribe because of its security and high monthly data cap of 10GB, and we have no reason to doubt its no-logs policy, too. Our list of the best free VPN providers has other effective services, as well.
If your ISP is deliberately throttling your bandwidth when it notices traffic from streaming or torrenting sites, a VPN can be of great help. We recommend getting started with ExpressVPN because it guarantees watertight digital security and excellent streaming speeds.
Have you ever experienced ISP throttling affecting your internet speed? Which VPN service did you use to stop bandwidth throttling from your internet service provider? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading.
Frequently Asked Questions about internet throttling law
Is Internet throttling legal?
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.Aug 10, 2021
How do I bypass Internet throttling?
Bypass ISP Throttling Your Internet Traffic: Use a VPNSubscribe to the VPN of Your Choice. … Download and Install the VPN. … Sign in to the VPN App. … Complete the Setup. … Connect to a Preferred Server Location. … Enjoy Throttling-Free Streaming.Jul 5, 2021
Can you stop Internet throttling?
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.Aug 2, 2021