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 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions about what to do if your internet is being throttled
Is internet throttling 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 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