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Is Your Internet Being Throttled? How to Test and Improve Your Speeds

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What is Throttling?

Throttling occurs when your internet speed is intentionally slowed down by your internet service provider (ISP). This common practice helps free up bandwidth for additional customers. However, ISPs won’t notify you when they throttle your data. If you notice a sudden drop in speed, especially during peak times like evenings or weekends, your internet might be throttled.

Can Your ISP Throttle Your Internet on Purpose?

Yes, ISPs have the right to throttle your internet speed, as outlined in their acceptable use policies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibits ISPs from reducing speeds based on your online activities but allows “reasonable network management.”

Reasons ISPs may throttle bandwidth include:

  • Accommodating more customers
  • Managing network congestion
  • Compensating for outdated infrastructure

How to Know if Your Wi-Fi is Being Throttled

Throttling is more common on mobile networks than home internet connections, especially during major events. To test if your home Wi-Fi is throttled, perform a speed test.

How to Test for Internet Throttling

To test for throttling, run two speed tests: one with and one without a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN hides your online activities, preventing your ISP from detecting the speed test.

  1. Run a speed test without a VPN.
  2. Run another speed test with a VPN.
  3. Compare the results.

If your speed is faster with the VPN, your ISP might be throttling your connection. Ensure you run both tests at the same time, on the same device, without other devices connected to get accurate results.

Other Signs of Internet Throttling

Even top ISPs may throttle bandwidth to manage network congestion. If your plan includes data caps or allows speed reductions, throttling might occur if you notice:

  • Buffering or lag during gaming or streaming
  • Slower speeds during evenings or weekends
  • Reduced speeds near the end of your billing cycle

How to Fix Bandwidth Throttling Issues

1. Use a VPN

Your ISP can track your online activities and may throttle high-data users. A VPN prevents this by hiding your activities. Recommended VPNs include Surfshark and NordVPN, costing around $3–$6/month with a 30-day free trial.

2. Upgrade Your Internet Plan

ISPs may throttle speeds if you exceed a soft data limit. Upgrade to a plan with a higher data limit to avoid throttling. Providers like Astound, Mediacom, or Hughesnet offer plans with more data. Updating to a plan that fits your needs can extend your high-speed data usage.

3. Switch to a Different Internet Provider

If throttling persists, consider switching to another ISP. Fiber internet providers like Verizon, Google Fiber, and AT&T Fiber are less likely to throttle since they offer dedicated connections and no-contract plans.

What Else Could Be Affecting Your Wi-Fi Speeds?

Slow Wi-Fi speeds aren’t always due to throttling. Other potential issues include:

  • Poor router placement: Ensure your router is in a central location.
  • Outdated router: Consider upgrading your router for better performance.
  • Insufficient speed: Reevaluate your internet speed needs and upgrade if necessary.

By identifying and addressing these factors, you can improve your internet speed and enjoy a smoother online experience.