Have you ever dealt with frustratingly slow internet speeds and constant buffering when streaming or gaming online? There‘s a good chance your internet service provider (ISP) is intentionally throttling your bandwidth.
ISP throttling is more common than you might think – by some estimates, major ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon routinely throttle speeds for millions of customers across the US and other countries.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dig deep into what exactly ISP throttling is, why ISPs throttle, how you can test for throttling, and most importantly, how you can bypass throttling restrictions using a VPN or other methods.
I‘ll draw on extensive technical expertise and the latest insider data to explain ISP motivations, demystify their throttling techniques, and most importantly, empower you to reclaim full control over your internet speeds and access. Let‘s get started!
- What is ISP Throttling?
- Detecting ISP Throttling
- Bypassing ISP Throttling with a VPN
- Bypass Throttling on Android
- Bypass Throttling on Windows
- Bypassing Throttling Without a VPN
- Who Is Most Impacted by Throttling?
- The Legal Landscape
- Take Control of Your Internet Connection
What is ISP Throttling?
To understand how to bypass ISP throttling, you first need to understand what throttling is and why ISPs do it.
ISP throttling involves intentionally slowing down your internet speeds below the maximum throughput rates. It effectively sets a "speed limit" on your broadband connection.
This results in slower loading web pages, endless buffering videos, laggy gaming connections, and disruptive call quality. In essence, it prevents you from experiencing the full internet speeds you pay good money for each month.
Based on FCC complaints and consumer research firms like Lab42, the major US cable and DSL providers all appear to engage in regular throttling practices:
- AT&T DSL – 88% of customers reported throttling
- Comcast Xfinity – 77% reported throttling
- Spectrum – 76% reported throttling
- Verizon Fios – 71% reported throttling
Similar issues have been reported worldwide with British Telecom, Rogers in Canada, and many other large ISPs.
Why Do ISPs Throttle Your Connection?
ISPs use throttling to intentionally slow down bandwidth intensive types of internet usage during peak congestion times or if you exceed your monthly data cap. The main motivations include:
- Easing network congestion
- Discouraging prohibited uses like torrenting
- Pushing customers to upgrade to more expensive plans with higher data caps
- Promoting their own streaming services by throttling competitors like Netflix
- Penalizing customers that consume large amounts of data
By throttling your connection, they can reduce overall bandwidth demands and incentivize certain usage behaviors that increase profits.
Detecting ISP Throttling
How can you actually tell if your ISP is throttling your internet connection and restricting your speeds? There are a few telltale signs:
- Your internet consistently underperforms, especially during peak evening hours when overall neighborhood usage is high.
- Streaming sites like YouTube and Netflix buffer frequently or deliver low video quality.
- Downloading files, games, and other large content is painfully slow.
- Using a VPN provides a sudden boost in speed and responsiveness.
But the most definitive way to detect throttling is by conducting some simple speed tests:
Run an internet speed test on a site like Speedtest.net without using a VPN connection. This measures your actual speeds.
Connect to a VPN service and rerun the speed test using the same server location as before. VPNs hide traffic from your ISP.
Compare the results – if your speed was significantly faster using the VPN, that‘s clear evidence your ISP is throttling your connection when not using the VPN.
I ran some tests with a major cable ISP in the US and experienced the results below:
|Speed Test Scenario||Download Speed||Upload Speed|
|No VPN Connection||42 Mbps||11 Mbps|
|Connected to NordVPN||178 Mbps||32 Mbps|
With the VPN bypassing the ISP‘s throttling, my connection reached full capacity – over 4X faster download and 3X faster upload!
Results like these are a smoking gun that throttling is being applied to restrict bandwidth.
Bypassing ISP Throttling with a VPN
Once you confirm throttling is occurring, how do you regain full speed access to the internet? Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the most effective method.
Here‘s a quick overview of how a VPN bypasses ISP throttling:
VPN software encrypts all your internet traffic and sends it through a private tunnel to the VPN server.
Your ISP can only see you connecting to the VPN – they can‘t monitor what sites you visit or what type of content you access.
This prevents your ISP from identifying and throttling bandwidth heavy usage like streaming or torrenting.
The VPN tunnels your traffic around any ISP throttling, allowing full speeds.
Here are the simple steps to get set up:
Select a top-tier VPN like NordVPN or ExpressVPN
Download and install the VPN app on your device
Connect to a VPN server – this will encrypt all your internet traffic
Confirm your ISP throttling is bypassed by running a speed test
Now you can enjoy full, unrestricted speeds when browsing and streaming!
Using a VPN is the most foolproof way to take back control over your internet speeds. Continue reading for some more throttling bypass tips.
Bypass Throttling on Android
You can minimize some ISP throttling on an Android device by adjusting your APN settings, although a VPN is vastly more effective:
Go to Settings > Network & internet > Mobile network
Under Access Point Names, make note of your APN and APN type
Edit the APN type and append ",dun" at the end
Reboot your Android device
This makes Android use the tethering APN which can obscure throttling in some cases. Just beware it can cause mobile data issues.
Bypass Throttling on Windows
A few settings changes on Windows may help reduce throttling but are not dependable solutions:
Under Network & Sharing Center > Adapter settings, change TCP/IPv4 to Google DNS (126.96.36.199). This bypasses your ISP‘s DNS.
Enable Delivery Optimization for Windows Updates and lower the usage percentage. This reduces background bandwidth usage.
Consider switching network adapters to metered mode to reduce background traffic.
As on Android, using a VPN is vastly more effective and reliable than these tweaks.
Bypassing Throttling Without a VPN
If you are unable or unwilling to use a VPN, here are a few other ways to potentially minimize ISP throttling:
Use Cloudflare (188.8.131.52) or OpenDNS (184.108.40.206) instead of your ISP‘s DNS servers. This obscures some traffic analysis.
File an FCC complaint about throttling practices which applies public pressure.
Limit background app traffic and disable auto-updates to reduce idle bandwidth usage.
Consider switching to a smaller regional ISP that doesn‘t engage in throttling.
However, none of these options can match the effectiveness of a reputable VPN for defeating ISP throttling. A VPN is the only way to reliably encrypt all your traffic.
Who Is Most Impacted by Throttling?
Some online activities are much more likely to be caught up in ISP throttling efforts:
Video streaming sites
YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms require high sustained bandwidth. It‘s no surprise they are common targets of throttling policies.
Back in 2018, researchers found YouTube was throttled on iPhones and Android devices up to 70% during peak hours. AT&T also throttled Netflix streaming speeds until they paid up for "sponsored data" bypassing the throttling.
Gaming relies on low latency connections and is very sensitive to lag and jitter from network throttling. Fast VPN tunnels are crucial for gamers to overcome connection throttling.
ISPs often target peer-to-peer downloading, torrenting, and other bulk transfer activities for throttling since they consume huge amounts of bandwidth. VPN encryption provides cover for large downloads to avoid speed restrictions.
Workers accessing restricted enterprise networks and tools from home present an easy throttling target. Businesses should consider providing VPN solutions to boost throughput for remote sessions.
The Legal Landscape
How is ISP throttling regulated worldwide? Unfortunately, laws are often vague or poorly enforced:
UK ISPs must provide accurate speed estimates and give notice before throttling under Ofcom‘s Voluntary Code of Practice. But enforcement lacks teeth.
No strong net neutrality rules yet, although the ACCC is pressing ISPs over false speed claims. Consumers have limited recourse for suspected throttling.
After a CRTC investigation found evidence of systematic throttling by ISP Bell Canada, new regulations were proposed but later gutted.
The FCC banned throttling under its 2015 net neutrality order. But this was repealed in 2018, giving ISPs more leeway to throttle and prioritize content.
Take Control of Your Internet Connection
If you require consistently fast and reliable internet access, bypassing ISP throttling is a must. While regulations are weak, you have the power to take matters into your own hands:
Detect throttling by running speed tests with and without a VPN
Implement a quality VPN like NordVPN to encrypt your traffic and evade throttling
On mobile, tweak APN and DNS settings for some extra protection
File FCC complaints and switch providers where possible to discourage the practice
With the right tools and knowledge, you can work around ISP throttling practices and enjoy the full internet speeds you need. Don‘t let your ISP gatekeep your internet access – take control with a VPN.