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Isp throttling - Can a VPN help?

Published 2 months ago  | Mark Johnson 

Throttling, in English, means putting your hands on someone’s neck and squeezing so that you cut off their air supply. So when people talk about “ISP throttling”, what is it that they mean and why is it affected by VPN? 

What is ISP throttling? 

Put simply, ISP throttling is when your Internet Service Provider chooses to limit the speed of your connection to regulate their network and make it less busy, usually caused by increase in demand. 

Why do ISPs throttle? 

The ISPs claim this regulates the network and prevents a small number of users from using up all of the bandwidth, making internet speeds fairer for everyone. Whilst it is true that any network, even one as large as the internet, has limited bandwidth (imagine a road during rush hour), ISPs have been known to needlessly limit bandwidth of certain types of internet user.

For example, if you stream a lot, or you torrent large amounts of data, or even backup large amounts to the cloud, you may find your ISP is throttling your connection. By throttling those who are engaging in behaviours that take up large amounts of bandwidth, ISPs can encourage the kinds of behaviour they want from their customers, limiting online freedom. 

ISPs have even been caught limiting users’ speeds on websites they don’t favour, for example those of competing Internet Service Providers. In the US, since the abolition of net neutrality laws, this is completely legal - although in the EU it is not. 

In many cases, ISPs throttle due to their own inability to fulfil their promises to customers - for example they’ve sold more “unlimited” data plans to customers than they are actually able to account for in bandwidth terms. 

For these reasons, using a VPN is an excellent method with which to prevent your internet speed being disrupted and limited. No more buffering halfway through a Netflix binge, no more painful lag during online gaming. 

How do you know your connection is being throttled? 

The first thing to do is to test the speed of your internet connection whilst doing a normal activity, like browsing a news website or going on social media. There are a number of providers for free online speed tests, the results of which will show you your upload speed and download speed. 

Then, test your connection’s speed again whilst doing the activity you suspect is being throttled by your ISP, for example streaming Netflix, torrenting or gaming. You could even try browsing a competing ISP’s website to see if that has any effect. 

Solving the problem 

Once you have established if your connection’s speed is being affected by your activity, you might think it’s time for the solution: a VPN. 

Your VPN will encrypt your connection and the information being used by it, which means your ISP won’t be able to tell what it is that you are doing online. This way, they won’t be able to see your activity, so won’t be able to choose to limit your connection’s speed based on what you are doing. A quick way to see if you're being throttled is to run a speed test before and after activating your VPN.

Unfortunately, regardless of whether you are using a VPN or not, ISPs still limit speeds of all users during the busiest periods of the day. Many just can’t keep up with the amount of information being exchanged, despite their promises of “unlimited” data plans. 

Download BlufVPN today to protect your connection against throttling. Start browsing freely, privately and safely.