‘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:
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.
What Is ISP Throttling? Why It Happens & How to Stop It | AVG
What is internet throttling?
Internet throttling is when your internet service provider (ISP) slows down your internet on purpose. They can limit bandwidth whenever they want, and you might not notice. But when Netflix gets choppy or Facebook takes minutes to load, your ISP may be limiting data transmission over your connection.
Slow loading times don’t always indicate internet throttling — you might be browsing during peak hours, or you might need to do some browser maintenance.
But maybe your ISP is deliberately impeding your connection to those sites. This may happen because you visit those sites frequently, or maybe your ISP’s available bandwidth is overloaded and they need to throttle your connection.
Internet throttling violates the principle of net neutrality, which states that ISPs must give equal treatment to all communications over the internet.
In the worst-case scenario, you might be kept from doing your work or other important tasks. What’s more, your ISP can keep providing subpar service with impunity. That’s an anti-consumer business practice, and it keeps the internet from being freely accessible to everyone.
If your internet connection has a real effect on your daily life, you should pay attention to the issue of internet throttling.
How can I tell if my internet is being throttled?
If your internet is slower than normal, especially on certain websites, this may indicate that data throttling is happening on your connection. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed here, ask yourself: Is my internet being throttled?
Your internet has become slower than usual, or your Wi-Fi connection is choppy or broken.
Certain websites or services load slower than others.
Your download speeds are suffering.
Your videos are constantly buffering or lagging.
Some websites seem to be blocked or non-functional.
If you don’t experience slowdowns often, you don’t need to worry about data throttling. But if you do, the next step is to use an internet throttling test, which analyzes your internet speed and lets you know if it’s being messed with. And there are other services that help you spot connection abnormalities.
Here are the three easiest ways to check if your ISP is throttling your internet connection:
Option 1: Use the Internet Health Test to see how your internet performs over a short period of time. This test checks your connection speed to popular access points and detects any unusual slowdowns. Here’s what good results tend to look like:
This test detects whether your ISP is slowing down streaming platforms like Netflix. The ISP can use this tactic as a bargaining chip to get the streaming service to pay them, which is unfair to you.
Option 2: Check if certain ports are blocked. Gamers will want to go to, click Port Scanners, and then click Game Ports. This advice is relevant only if you use an open port while gaming online and have recently begun experiencing issues.
You should worry only if a game you play is coming back with a “Timed-Out” status. The first step in that case is to try port forwarding, if you haven’t done so already.
If you’ve been comfortably using one of these ports, and it suddenly hits you with a “Rejected” status, you might have a problem with throttling.
Option 3: Check if the speed of your internet changes when using a VPN. The simplest way to see if your internet is being throttled is to turn on a VPN (virtual private network) and compare the speed. Though your VPN may slow down your internet slightly, the difference is nothing compared to ISP throttling — and you can always make your VPN connection go faster.
If your internet is faster with your VPN on, your ISP might be throttling your internet. So why don’t you just keep your VPN on all the time? Great question!
Solving content-based ISP throttling is one of the many benefits to using a VPN. A virtual private network also encrypts your data to prevent your ISP from monitoring what you do. Encryption secures your internet browsing, making any connection safe — including unsecured public Wi-Fi networks — as long as you’ve got the VPN turned on.
AVG Secure VPN is carefully designed to give you world-class online security, keep you anonymous while you browse, and bring the whole internet to your fingertips. Try it today with a 7-day free trial.
How to stop internet throttling
You can stop internet throttling by changing your ISP or hiding your internet activity with a VPN. Here are the best ways to stop internet throttling:
Switch to a new internet service provider.
Self-regulate your bandwidth use.
Upgrade your internet plan to a higher data cap.
Use a VPN.
Your ISP might have a policy on network throttling that you can find on their website — look in the terms and conditions for anything that mentions bandwidth limits, data caps, or similar terms. You can also learn about their throttling policies by reading user reviews. If you can’t or don’t want to switch ISPs, use a VPN.
How does a VPN stop internet throttling?
By encrypting your internet connection, a VPN prevents your ISP from monitoring your online activity and throttling you because of it. While your ISP can still impose limits on your total bandwidth use, you’ll no longer need to be worried about your activity compromising your connection.
VPNs are easy to set up, and masking your activity is a surefire way to stop your ISP from limiting your access to certain websites and services. And by hiding your IP address, VPNs open up your streaming and TV options significantly. (If you’re on mobile, check out our guide to setting up a mobile VPN. )
With military-grade encryption, AVG Secure VPN is the best VPN to stop internet throttling. Your internet use will stay hidden, protecting you against content-based internet throttling by your ISP. Whether your ISP is actually throttling your internet or not, go with the option that ensures they won’t.
Why is my ISP throttling my internet?
Your ISP may throttle your internet to try to minimize congestion by managing traffic on its network. Throttling can also happen if you’ve reached your data cap (usage limit) within a given period. Only when throttling is used against you should you do something about it. In the meantime, you can also try boosting your Wi-Fi signal to see if that speeds things up.
The most common reasons your ISP throttles your internet connection and limits your data transmission speeds include:
Tackling network congestion
Heavy internet usage will slow down the internet speeds of other people in the same area. To compensate, ISPs may throttle the connection of anyone using high amounts of bandwidth. You may experience slower speeds for a little while, especially if you’ve been engaging in bandwidth-heavy activities, but this usually occurs only during short “rush hour” periods.
Your connection can become deprioritized if you’ve used a certain amount of bandwidth during the billing period — especially if your internet contract has a data cap. Even “unlimited” plans often have unofficial data caps. Your connection could be the first to get throttled in periods of network congestion, or your speeds might stay reduced until the next cycle starts.
If your work or other activity requires a stable, high-speed connection for hours at a time, look closely at your ISP’s policies on data use. Gamers will want the best setup possible, especially if they’re competing or streaming on Twitch.
Deprioritization of certain services
In many places, ISPs are allowed to limit access to streaming services as part of their efforts to manage everyone’s connections. But you shouldn’t be deprived of parts of the internet for arbitrary reasons totally unrelated to you. Likewise, those who want to stream without buffering might want to try a different ISP — if there are options where you live.
Is ISP throttling illegal?
ISP throttling is not illegal, and sometimes, it’s even necessary. Your connection would be much choppier if your ISP wasn’t allowed to manage usage over its network. Throttling allows your ISP to ensure stable service for everyone using the internet. But there are some ways that throttling can be unethical.
Net neutrality in the US
In the US, ISPs weren’t always allowed to throttle particular applications and services. But when the country’s net neutrality rules were repealed in 2018, these limits were removed. Now, ISPs are no longer legally required to treat all internet traffic equally.
ISPs are also allowed to make you pay for the “fast lane, ” something that wasn’t possible under net neutrality regulations. You’re presented with the “choice” to go with a standard connection or a marked-up package.
You might not have noticed the effects of net neutrality’s repeal, but an open and ethical internet provides equal opportunity to all. When the rulebook favors the corporate bottom line, you might be prevented from making a career pivot to online teaching or Twitch streaming. Net neutrality is an issue that concerns us all.
Bypass throttling with a VPN
AVG Secure VPN encrypts your online activity with a single click or tap. No matter where you are, your internet connection will be safe from prying eyes, with everything you do completely hidden.
If you’re looking for the simplest throttle bypass, AVG Secure VPN will prevent ISPs from limiting any online activity they don’t like. And with your IP address masked, you’ll be able to unblock websites, avoid IP-based web tracking, and prevent location-based price discrimination.
Take back the internet for yourself today, and try AVG Secure VPN with a 7-day free trial.
Frequently Asked Questions about is throttling illegal
How do I stop internet 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. … Switch to a new internet provider. … Use a VPN.Aug 2, 2021
Is throttling internet speed legal?
Is ISP throttling illegal? ISP throttling is not illegal, and sometimes, it’s even necessary. Your connection would be much choppier if your ISP wasn’t allowed to manage usage over its network. Throttling allows your ISP to ensure stable service for everyone using the internet.May 19, 2021
How can I tell if I am being throttled?
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.Oct 12, 2021