When choosing between different ISP (Internet Service Provider) plans, you are comparing how much you need to pay to get a certain Web speed. Therefore, you expect to get that speed at all times – since you’re paying for it, after all. However, this isn’t always the case. This is especially true today since we no longer have Net Neutrality protecting us. So, do you think that you’re being throttled? Do you want to learn how to bypass ISP throttling? Keep on reading to find out.
Before we even dive deeper into this topics, we’re going to tell you that bypassing ISP throttling is possible. There are different ways this can be done, and we’re going to explain the best options. So, let’s jump right in.
The Basics of ISP Throttling: Understanding the Terms
First, we are going to take a deeper look at what it means to be throttled. To be fair, there are numerous possible reasons why your Web connection might be weak. So, it’s important to understand this problem before accusing your ISP of throttling your Web connection speed.
What is Limited Bandwidth?
To be fair, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why you may be getting bad Internet speeds. It may be something as simple as a problem with your local connection or a busy local exchange.
Sometimes, too many people are trying to use the Internet in your area, which usually means that the Internet service companies have to expand their capacity, which can take a while. Problems can range even further out than this. For example, undersea fiber cables that connect the world can be damaged by ships’ anchors or earthquakes. This means that there’s less bandwidth to go around until the problem is fixed.
The thing is – when these sorts of problems are at fault, everything you try to do on the Internet is slow, but sometimes only some things are slow. It’s a mystery, right? Or maybe, just maybe, something more sinister is going on.
What is ISP Throttling?
If your Internet speed isn’t consistent across the board, you may be experiencing something known either as Internet throttling, ISP throttling or Internet shaping. These terms aren’t 100% interchangeable but generally refer to the same sort of ISP shenanigans.
When your Internet connection is being throttled on purpose by your service provider, certain websites will open at full speed. However, some websites will be slow to load and use – which can be especially painful when it comes to media streaming websites. It could be that those funny cat memes on Facebook load instantly, but when you try to watch Netflix or YouTube, the videos either take forever to load or are forced down to lower quality levels.
Why Would an ISP Throttle Your Web Connection?
It can seem a little weird that this is even possible. It would be like the electricity company deciding how much power is available for cooking, cleaning, TV or taking a shower. Utilities don’t work this way at all. The electricity company doesn’t care what you use your power for, just that you pay for the power you use.
ISPs sell Internet connections in units of speed and total data. In some parts of the world, you can buy your data by the gigabyte. Generally, those sorts of Internet packages are not throttled in any way. When you’ve used up your data allocation, your connection shuts off until you pay for more data. That’s not a way to sell Internet services, however, so instead most ISPs sell you ‘unlimited’ or ‘uncapped’ deals at a particular speed. The problem is that they’re buying Internet bandwidth in bulk from a bigger service provider and need to make a profit.
This means that it’s not in the best interest of your ISP for you to use your connection. Any bandwidth you don’t use, your ISP can sell to someone else. It’s in the ISPs best interest to oversell their capacity and then hope their customers won’t use all of it.
So, low-impact services like Web browsing are okay to run at the blistering speed advertised in bold numbers, but torrents, video streaming, and video game downloads must be knocked down to a lower service level. Sometimes the reasons are extra shady, for example, if your ISP also runs its own video streaming service in competition with Netflix or Hulu, they could sneakily degrade competitor services without you knowing.
How Do ISPs Throttle Your Connection?
You may be wondering how your ISP even knows what it is you’re doing. You might want to sit down for this, but the truth is that your ISP knows almost everything that you do on the Internet. With the exception of encrypted services like Internet banking, your online life is an open book to your ISP.
In general, your ISP isn’t interested in your My Little Pony obsession, but it is interested in what OTT (over the top) services you are using. You see, although you have one Internet pipeline running from your home to the ISP, it has different kinds of traffic that run through it. Think of traffic on a real highway. You can easily pick out if a vehicle is a private car, a company van, a truck or an ambulance.
The little data packets that make up your internet traffic can be identified in the same way using a method known as deep-packet inspection to figure out what sort of traffic it is. Sometimes it’s even easier since some services only use specific ‘ports’, which you can think of as a sort of virtual lane.
Now imagine if each type of traffic on the highway were given their own speed limit or were told they could only use a certain number of lanes. That’s how Internet throttling works.
What is Peering?
To help you understand what is peering, we’ll start from the basics. In case you didn’t know, the Internet is not a massive network that stretches across our planet. It consists of numerous smaller networks that communicate with each other. This means that these networks need to have some kind of a relationship.
In essence, it all comes down to two types of relationships. There’s a transit relationship where one network pays the other network to carry its data. And there’s also a peering relationship where two networks agree to send data back and forth without charging each other. In simple terms, two ISPs can connect and exchange their Web traffic – which is often the case in the USA and across the world.
Now, the biggest problem here is that one ISP can exceed the agreed traffic ratio, which forces the other network to block all access to the services in question. If this is Netflix, for example, you will be forced not to use the full bandwidth of your network. Once again, customers are in the middle of a peering conflict between two companies (networks).
Is ISP Throttling Illegal?
That’s a good question! The answer is sort of complicated, and it depends on where in the world your ISP is based. In general, ISPs do act in accordance with the law. If you look at the fine print of your agreement with them, there may be fancy terms like ‘a quality of service and limiting peer-to-peer traffic’. ISPs sure do reserve a lot of rights when it comes to what they are obligated to give you for your hard-earned cash!
Globally, there’s a big debate going on about something called Net neutrality. If a government rules in favor of Net neutrality, this means that ISPs cannot legally limit certain sorts of Internet traffic for any reason.
In 2016, US courts ruled that Internet connections should be treated like a utility. This is awesome news, but big Internet companies are already appealing the decision, and it could be years before the legal issue is finally settled. In the meantime, ISPs can keep throttling your services.
How to Know If You’re Being Throttled?
That can be a really tricky question to answer. Just because your ISP reserves the right to throttle you, this doesn’t mean that they’re exercising that right. At the same time, your ISP can make it harder for you to find a clear answer to your throttling paranoia.
Services such as Ookla’s Speed Test will still show your full line speed even if you’re being throttled. Why? Well, of course, one service your ISP is unlikely to throttle is Ookla’s Speed Test! This means that you need an Internet throttling test of some sort.
How to Test Your Connection for Throttling?
In response to the revelation that ISPs are having it all their own way, the Internet community has come up with a number of tests to help you figure out if you have a throttling issue. Unfortunately, one of the easiest tests, Glasnost, has been retired, but there are plenty of alternatives.
The easiest one is to run Netflix’s FAST speed test. This is not like other speed testing services because it runs through the same system as Netflix itself. So if your ISP is throttling the Netflix service, you’ll see a lower number here than on a standard speed test.
Another popular target for throttling is peer-to-peer traffic. You may think that this only applies to BitTorrent, but more and more software clients are using peer-to-peer technology to provide downloads. So even if you aren’t actively using peer-to-peer services, throttling can still affect you! The easiest way to check if you aren’t getting your full speed on P2P services is to download a (legal!) torrent and compare the reported speed to a normal speed test.
Finally, the Internet Health Test is a great way to see if there’s a bottleneck in your ISP’s network where your speeds are being deliberately cut. We have tested it on a premium unthrottled account rated for 10 Mbps downstream and the test got the same speed at every ISP interconnect level. So, in this case, we’re getting exactly what we should. If the health test doesn’t give you a clean bill of health, you may be a victim of throttling.
I’m Being Throttled! What To Do Now?
First, don’t panic! There are a couple of things you can do to bypass ISP throttling. You’re not powerless in this particular fight. Just the fact that you’re aware of the throttling gets you halfway to victory.
The most radical solution is to dump your ISP for one that explicitly says it does not throttle. That is if you can find one. This isn’t really an option for most people since they might be locked into a contract or none of the available ISPs are willing to play fair. Besides, those premium unthrottled accounts can cost quite a bit more than the package you’re currently using.
You can bypass the ISP speed limits for torrents specifically with something called a seedbox, but that won’t help you with peer-to-peer throttling in general. Just with the deliberate torrenting of specific files. Luckily, there’s an easy solution that can bypass data throttling for your entire internet connection as a whole. What you need is a VPN or virtual private network.
What’s the Best Way to Bypass ISP Throttling?
Now that we’ve told you everything you need to know of what happens behind the scenes, let’s talk about your options. Keep on reading to learn about the role of VPNs in battling against your Internet Service Provider.
Can a VPN Bypass ISP Throttling?
A VPN is a private tunnel used to transmit your incoming and outgoing data. What does this have to do with bypassing ISP data caps? If you recall, the only way ISPs can throttle you is if they know what you’re doing. The privacy of a VPN extends to hiding the details of your Internet dealings too, so throttling is a thing of the past.
For just a few dollars a month, you can get total peace of mind and the full use of your internet connection. Not all VPNs are made equal though and some of them can be hard to use. We’ve tried more VPNs than we’d like to admit and one of them keeps coming out on top. Our recommendation for your first (and last!) VPN is ExpressVPN.
Why Should You Use ExpressVPN?
For one thing, ExpressVPN is one of the easiest VPNs to set up. Getting it to work on just about any device is as simple as downloading the app and copying the provided activation code into the right spot. That was it. Instant VPN.
It also works on just about anything. You can have it on your smartphone, tablet, router, Mac, PC, and Linux. There are also browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. One subscription covers three different devices at the same time. Of course, if one of those devices is your router, then anything connected to it is automatically covered. Just make sure your router is compatible with ExpressVPN.
Apart from bypassing your throttling, you also get to browse anonymously and in some cases, you can access blocked content in your part of the world. Goodbye censorship and good riddance too! It also means you can use public Wi-Fis in hotels and restaurants without worrying about getting hacked. This makes ExpressVPN one of the safest VPNs to use.
Is ExpressVPN Effective Against Throttling?
Without any problems! If your main concern is bypassing ISP throttling, well, the only way to know how much improvement you’ll get is to try it yourself. The good news is that you can try ExpressVPN for 30 days. This means you literally have nothing to lose. Once you’ve used a VPN, you’ll wonder why you ever dared go on the internet without one. So what are you waiting for?
How to Bypass ISP Throttling on iOS and Android?
Everything we’ve previously said also applies to iOS and Android devices. This means that you need to use a VPN to bypass ISP throttling on iOS and Android. However, this is where you need to be careful about picking a VPN, since not every provider has a native iOS/Android app.
Once again, we would like to recommend ExpressVPN since this provider has stellar apps for pretty much every popular platform. Once you sign up for a new account, you can download the VPN app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. Log in, pick a secure server, and you’re ready to go.
How to Bypass ISP Throttling While Torrenting?
A number of our readers have told us that their ISP is throttling P2P traffic. This makes it impossible for them to download torrents, which is a huge obstacle. The truth is that torrenting is often associated with piracy, which is why many ISPs forbid this type of activity.
This is yet another scenario where a VPN comes into play. Still, not every VPN supports P2P network, so you need to be careful about which one you pick. For example, ExpressVPN does not have any limitations – making it highly suitable for downloading torrents. Also, feel free to check our list of the best VPN for torrenting.
How to Bypass ISP Throttling on YouTube?
You have probably encountered geo-blocks on YouTube many times before. Due to licensing obstacles (and due to many other roadblocks), certain videos might not be available in your country. Don’t worry, we have a highly helpful article that you can check – the best VPNs for YouTube.
Can You Bypass ISP Throttling Without a VPN?
Even though you can find some tips on how to battle your ISP, you should not rely on those. If you wish to try to come up with a solution that doesn’t include a VPN, you’ll most likely spend a lot of time without any viable results. Even if you find something that works, that solution can never be as effective as a top-rated VPN.
What you need to keep in mind is that VPNs are not only used to overcome throttling. These are used to highly secure your connection and to make you anonymous online (at least as much as possible). Therefore, you need to think of them of all-around solutions for your online safety. And we can all agree that spending a few dollars each month on something like this seems like an excellent idea.
Dear readers, this would be all that you need to know about how to bypass ISP throttling. We sincerely hope that we managed to answer all your questions. If there’s something else you want to know, feel free to post a comment below.