What Is Bandwidth Throttling (and How You Can Solve it)

What do you use your internet for?

If you're like us, people who cannot live without the internet, you use it from procrastinating on Facebook to sending HD videos via Dropbox to binge-watching on Netflix.

You've been doing this smoothly day and night, and then suddenly:

All your videos buffer and the progress bar of your uploading activities doesn't move. Facebook may still work, though (but for the inspirational videos). 

Frustrated? You should be.

There are a few reasons your internet can slow down. But if you have been using your internet intensely the past few days/weeks, you may be a victim of a practice called "bandwidth throttling."

What Is Bandwidth Throttling?

Bandwidth throttling is a purposeful limitation of connection speed done by your internet provider.

In other words, your ISP may lower your internet to a speed that's not usual in a deliberate manner. You may experience this on all your devices, connected via an ethernet cable or through WiFi.

You can also have your ISP throttling your bandwidth when you access certain websites; typically those that are bandwidth-hungry.

man frowning in front of computer

What Is the Purpose Bandwidth Throttling?

There are a few possible reasons:

  • There's an expected or unexpected peak of connection. In this case, ISPs control the bandwidth to decongest the heavy traffic. Think of it as those sections on the highway where you have much lower speed limits than usual because¬†it's often jam-packed there.
  • You have reached the maximum amount of bandwidth as written in your contract with your ISP.
  • Your ISP is trying to stop you from uploading or downloading a big amount of data from the internet, so they practice bandwidth control for some websites.

You, yourself, ask for a bandwidth throttling on your connection to prevent someone on your household from accessing websites that use a lot of bandwidth (Netflix, online games, etc.)

Is It Legal, Though?

As you can see, most of the reasons above do NOT benefit you as an internet user (except for the last point), but your ISP. 

So the question of its legality is legit.

Bandwidth throttling done by your ISP is 100% legal IF the purpose is for traffic decongestion and if you've maxed out on your bandwidth. 


If an ISP does it to offer you a more expensive service (so that you can have your usual speed back), it's not legal as per the Federal Trade Commission's regulations. 

If you have a contract mentioning "unlimited data," it then becomes highly unethical for your ISP to throttle your internet on the basis that you've used a lot of bandwidth lately. ISPs who practice bandwidth throttle in these latter ways can have legal troubles.

How to Know if You've Been Bandwidth-Throttled

Test your speed regularly and log it. By recording your speed, you'll know what you usually have during peak and non-peak hours.

And then, if your speed suddenly gets poor, think about how you've used the Internet lately.

Have you been uploading and downloading a huge amount of data? If yes, you may be experiencing a bandwidth control.

Also, try to open a few websites. If all the bandwidth-hungry websites are inaccessible while the "normal" ones are smooth sailing, your ISP may be throttling you.

unsolved rubik's cube

How to Solve Bandwidth Throttling

Don't despair, repair! (That's our motto when it comes to the internet connection.)

There's a way you can avoid bandwidth throttling forever. It's by installing VPN software on all your devices.

How VPNs Can Help

A VPN software creates a secure tunnel as a secret connection passage between your computer to your server. 

This tunnel is highly encrypted, which means that it's unlikely your ISP or any hacker can get through it to "see" what you've been doing on the internet.

Also, with a VPN, your connection becomes anonymous since your IP address is masked.

So, your ISP simply cannot know that it is YOU who has been watching Hulu non-stop over the weekend. This means they have no reason to bandwidth-throttle you.

VPNs and Speed Loss

Okay, okay, we know what you'll say next:

"Right. But VPNs can cause me to lose some speed, too."

Yes. But:

  • The loss of speed that comes from a VPN can be reduced to a maximum level by installing it correctly.
  • The packet loss from a VPN is WAY less than what you'll have in the event of an internet throttling.
  • Some VPN companies¬†can guarantee 0% packet loss.

So the key is finding the right VPN provider. 

We have compiled the list of the best 11 VPN providers for 2018 that tick all of the boxes: easy installation, little to none packet loss, great customer service and overall excellent value for money. 

To Wrap It Up

We don't want you to accuse your ISP of throttling your internet at the slightest loss of speed.

So, learn your contract first: what is it that you're paying to have? It's possible that you simply have used everything you paid for.

And then, know your usual speed and all of the possible reasons your connection can get slower.

Watch out for one thing, though:

If you call them about your sudden speed loss and they try to sell you up, you'll know what's up.

Serina Rajagukguk

Serina is a writer whose passion includes learning all about new technology and trying to explain it in a layman term. 

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