Surfshark

Am I being throttled and how to stop it – Surfshark


Goddy Ray
Devoted online security and privacy advocate
December 28, 2020
10 min read

Fix internet throttling by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN is hands down the most effective way to get rid of internet throttling. However, make sure you choose a VPN that’s not going to make your internet connectivity issues worse (I don’t advise trusting free VPNs, but more on that later). If you’re hunting for a fast VPN, Surfshark can help.

Note: I’ll “translate” the following paragraph for those who don’t want to get all techy.

Our VPN offers high-quality servers with at least a 1Gbps port connected. The server capacity increases depending on how demanding those servers are. Since the US and the UK servers are usually the most popular, we invest more in them to make it as fast for our users as possible.

Okay, now the translation: basically, we ensure high VPN speed by supplying our servers by demand. For example, naturally, people mostly connect to servers in big countries, like the US, the UK, Japan, Australia, to name a few. Since more people connect to those locations, we make sure our VPN servers keep up with the load. By constantly monitoring and upgrading servers, we manage to maintain great connection speed.

Setting up a VPN on your device is super easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Download a VPN app from your device’s app store or the VPN’s website.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Sign in.
  4. Connect to any server location.
  5. Live lag-free!

How does a VPN solve this issue?

It anonymizes and encrypts internet traffic that travels to and from your device, so the ISP doesn’t know whether you’re just scrolling away or watching Netflix. When they don’t know if you’re engaging in high-bandwidth activities, they can’t slow anything down on purpose.

How to tell if your internet provider is really throttling you?

There are some signs and patterns that indicate internet throttling. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Slower peak hours. Slowing down internet traffic during peak hours (e.g., after a typical workday) is a pretty common practice.
  • Lagging video content. If you’re noticing internet troubles while watching videos, even though you can browse the internet with ease, your ISP might be throttling you.
  • Incredibly slow downloading. Same as the previous point, if it’s just one specific type of activity that appears to be suspiciously slow, it might be happening on purpose.

Why do ISPs intentionally slow down internet connection?

Short answer: They do it to save money.

Longer answer: When an Internet Service Provider slows down certain services for some users or throttle bandwidth at a particular time of the day, they save their network’s storage. That way, they can fit in more users without increasing network capacity.

What kind of internet traffic is in danger of being throttled?

I’ve already touched on the fact that data throttling is applied to a specific type of internet traffic, but let’s put everything into a neat listicle. Throttling affects these types of online services:

  • Live streaming.
  • High-definition video.
  • Gaming.
  • File sharing/P2P (torrenting).
  • Downloading.

In some cases, internet throttling is sort of a way for your internet carrier to “punish” you. I know it sounds extreme, but your ISP might choose to throttle your bandwidth when they notice you’re often engaging in high-bandwidth activities (like those I listed above).

They usually do it to convince you to buy a more expensive plan with more data.

Does data throttling affect all operating systems? Yes, it affects any OS or device.

Does bandwidth throttling affect mobile data?

Yes, the practice of internet throttling is more likely to affect mobile data, so Android and iOS devices are generally more at risk.

Is data throttling illegal?

With the dramatic death of Net Neutrality in 2017, ISPs in the US can legally throttle data. T-Mobile and AT&T do it, among some other internet service companies.

Speaking of legality, there’s also an issue of data throttling being very hard to catch. This way, ISPs can get away with this practice with little to no repercussions.

Why is data throttling hard to catch, you may ask. Well, when an ISP slows down certain websites or activities, it doesn’t mean that it will reflect in general internet speed tests. So, your experience can get worse without anything to prove it.

Are there any cases where bandwidth throttling makes sense?

Internet Service Providers might also slow down internet traffic for users engaging in suspicious activities or lurking in questionable websites.

Understandably, ISPs might not want users to dabble in shady business online under their service name. So they could choose to make a blacklist of websites they deem inappropriate or illegal.

So are ISPs the bad guys?

are ISPs the bad guys

Whether you deem your Internet Service Provider a bad guy in this situation depends on your perspective.

From their point of view, slowing down the internet for users who go over data limits to make way for users with fewer bandwidth demands makes sense. However, from your perspective, you paid money for a service, and it seems like your internet carrier is toying with you for their gain.

Why you should avoid free VPNs

Getting a free VPN might seem tempting, but it usually does more harm than good. VPN technology relies on complicated software that requires a lot of investment to be properly maintained and updated, so paying money for a service like that makes sense.

Since we established that VPNs require investment, free VPN providers have to make money somehow in order to cover the costs. So instead of charging you a monthly or yearly fee, they turn to shady ways to make money off of you. The methods include selling your data to third parties and bombarding you with ads, which can lead to your device being infected with malware (since malware is usually related to advertising). Ads also make the VPN work slower than it should.

Speaking of speed, free VPNs tend to be slower in general. A lot of times, these providers offer paid versions, so they set data caps and slow down internet connection on purpose to encourage users to upgrade.

There’s a lot of irony in trusting a free VPN to handle your privacy. Keeping data logs, showing personalized ads, exposing users’ passwords, and selling information beat the whole purpose of having a VPN in the first place.

So, whatever you choose, make sure you research it properly instead of putting your private information in the hands of those who exploit it.

The takeaway: a VPN will effectively solve throttling issues

If you want to make data throttling a problem of the past, get a VPN. Not only will it stop your ISP from cherry-picking websites and activities to slow down, but it will also solve privacy and security issues. Let’s be real, it’s concerning that your ISP can legally snoop on your online habits regardless of whether they throttle internet connection or not.

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