What is ISP Throttling?

Throttling is defined as intentional ‘bandwidth choking’ or slowing down of internet speed by an ISP. It is usually described by internet service providers as a technique used to “regulate network traffic” and “minimize bandwidth congestion”. The ISP usually has freedom to throttle bandwidth in different locations at the same time and sometimes targets a single user specifically to reduce their bandwidth usage.

Bandwidth throttling has become a growing vice for internet users across the world. Net Neutrality in the USA should have been the end of it but new rules dictated by the FCC have compounded bandwidth throttling from various US ISPs.

ISPs track users’ activities, observing what content they are accessing. This allows them to see what users’ are streaming, downloading and browsing. The ISP then takes charge and reduces the speed limit for all users’ or a particular user based on their activity.

Today, millions of users’ are using VPN to bypass ISP throttling with a massive populace based in the United States, Canada, Australia and United Kingdom.

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Once under the protection of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) the ISP, or anyone for that matter, has no idea what users’ are browsing, downloading & streaming. VPN were primarily developed for one thing, accessing secure business servers & databases from another city, country or any other remote location. Recently VPN have evolved into multi-purpose tools to bypass ISP throttling, to bypass geo-restrictions, for security over public Wi-Fi networks, to secure communications and for anonymous online browsing.
bypass throttling

Figure 1 – A Simple Illustration of how ISPs Throttle Bandwidth

The ISP is the moderator observing the network for irregular usage events (flow & use of bandwidth) and if all of a sudden a user start’s consuming majority of bandwidth while streaming HD movies on Netflix, the ISP tightens the tap on the network to restrict that user from receiving high speed.

For instance, Comcast & Verizon (both large scale US internet service providers) have been caught in the act throttling customers’ bandwidth when they use Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services. Our readers can check if their connection is being throttled by the ISP using the Battle for The Net Throttling Test.


How to Bypass Throttling on iPhone


Although the Apple iPhone is a powerful smartphone, it is still vulnerable to network throttling from the ISP side. Our recommended solution is to have a VPN always in handy for their multiple benefits including keeping you anonymous online, keeping your data & activity secure and bypassing throttling to name a few.

In her CNet article “How to tell if your wireless carrier is throttling data”, Sarah Jacobsson discussed how mobile carriers treat customers over different data limits. Using the Ookla Broadband Speed Test app, she conducted tests before and after exceeding her mobile data limit of 35GB. However she concludes that after only consuming 5 GB of her mobile data, the provider began throttling her internet speed.

Once under the VPN’s protection all your online requests & activities passes through the secure VPN tunnel ensuring that even the ISP can’t see anything. All the ISP will see is a connection to a server based in another country. Most throttling is generally conducted by ISPs over user connections that regularly stream video, play online games and download large size media.

To bypass throttling on your iPhone:

  1. Signup to a VPN service
  2. Download the VPN provider’s iOS app for iPhone or configure manually
  3. Sign in to the app with login credentials
  4. Connect to a server based in Canada, UK, Germany, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Belgium etc.

*Always remember to test connection speed over different servers to know which regions are best for your mobile internet connection.


How to Bypass Throttling on Android


It is common knowledge that mobile carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile and Virgin mobile throttle their subscribers’ 3G & 4G internet speeds even before they exceed the monthly data limit. After consuming the monthly data limit, ISPs sometimes permanently slow down your connection until the billing data has been reached, otherwise you can buy more data for wallet breaking add-ons (e.g 10 GB for $10).

Following these simple tips to ensure your Android device uses less data to avoid ISP throttling:


Use Chrome’s Data Compression


The Data Compression feature can be easily utilized by Android users in their smart phones to decrease their monthly bandwidth usage. To use this feature users could go to Settings>Bandwidth Management>Reduce Data usage to enable compression.


Enable Data Saving Apps


There are different data saving apps available including Onavo Extend and browsers like Opera Max that can help users to consume less data.


How Does a VPN Bypass ISP Throttling?


ISPs tend to monitor their users’ online activity looking for events where a particular user is consuming a lot of network speed. Although this may be considered an invasion of privacy, ISPs do it regardless. A VPN in this case tends to bypass ISP bandwidth throttling techniques by accomplishing the following:

  1. Route all user traffic through a VPN server
  2. Replace real user IP address with one from its server
  3. Makes user activity anonymous using tunneling protocols
  4. Secures user traffic using encryption algorithms


bypass isp bandwidth netflix throttling


If you observe Figure 2 above, the same user from Figure 1 is now connected via a VPN server, the ISP has no idea what the user is accessing. Simultaneously, the VPN is actively bypassing ISP throttling allowing the user to browse online without speed limits or “slow lanes”.  Below is a screen capture from my Windows VPN client:

vpn for bypass isp throttling

Notice on the bottom right (marked with red outline) that our IP address has been replaced with one from Luxembourg and the VPN shows my location within Luxembourg. The ISP will now see nothing but a connection to the Ivacy VPN Luxembourg server and nothing else.


How to Bypass ISP Throttling without VPN


There are ways to overcome ISP throttling without VPN too. Here are some tips to ensure your connection is not throttled:


Conduct Speed Tests


You can routinely conduct speed tests to determine the speed of your internet connection. Consider testing your mobile internet speed over speedtest.net or testmy.net every time you cross the 5, 10, 15 & 20 GB thresholds.


bypass throttling without vpn


You must perform speed tests to explore the weekly comparison of your internet speeds hence you will be able to see at what data limit your network is actually throttled. Similarly you will know at what times your network attains maximum bandwidth or speed.


Conduct Internet Health Tests


The internet health test is another way of checking ISP throttling as it evaluates signs of network congestion &degradation. You can examine your ISP throttling problem in real time while recording peak times of network usage. Internet health tests utilize codes from the MLabs infrastructure so that the traffic could be sent to the desired location situated outside ISP network from the user device

The test identifies signs of congestion between the measured points and ISP. If the difference in bandwidth is significant then it could be termed as ISP throttling. Consequently, you should not jump to the final result immediately and perform several tests over one week’s time to get concrete evidence. You can take remedial actions to bypass ISP throttling if this issue arises.


What to do if your ISP throttles VPN traffic


While all VPN traffic is securely encrypted and routed through a secure tunnel and hidden from all entities including your ISP, the ISP can still see the VPN tunnel itself. Therefore, your ISP can choose to throttle or completely block the connection from accessing the internet. It may be a viable strategy for ISPs to implement but a very bad one nonetheless. Businesses especially employ VPN services to securely connect their travelling employees to their servers when in the field, conduct online interviews &conferences, make secured payments, and protect their systems from data breaches. Throttling or blocking VPN tunnel traffic altogether can prove devastating from the economic point of view.

A known vulnerability known over when connected over the OpenVPN UDP/TCP protocols with random ports. The ISP can then block all VPN traffic on random ports, except TCP Port 443.Almost all websites & web-services use Port 443 with HTTPS (SSL protocol) to secure their traffic. By throttling Port 443 ISPs would cause a massive catastrophe or in modest terms “break the internet.” Known VPN throttling and blockades have been identified in China, Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, but, netizens have reported US ISPs including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T throttling their connections when using torrents. To counter the issue, netizens can simply switch to OpenVPN TCP Port 443.


The Pure VPN Open VPN Configuration file for UK-London Server with TCP Protocol 80

Since many VPN providers offer custom OpenVPN clients, it is easy to configure the protocol type and port using the default .ovpn configuration file. We installed PureVPN OpenVPN dialer and configured the UK Server for port 443.


We replaced the Port from 80 to 443 & saved the file to connect

Identifying and Avoiding BitTorrent Throttling

Throttling Torrent traffic seems to be the favorite hobby of ISPs even in regions like USA, UK & Canada where net neutrality laws exist. This throttling is based on the assumption that the user may be downloading copyright material from torrent trackers.

avoid bittorrent throttling

Scientific internet speed statistics monitor, Measurement Labs, provides real time throttling test statistics for regions around the world through it brilliant testing tools. Next time you are ready to download torrents, especially media that may be considered copyright material check the Measurement Labs tools to see if ISPs are throttling the network.


Bypass Throttling on Torrents with VPN

Usually when an ISP notices a user downloading media through torrents their bandwidth is immediately throttled. Torrents take up considerable network speed when settings are properly tweaked within the torrent client. Some torrent fans have also been sent notices for downloading copyright torrents, VPN also secure downloaders by replacing their IP address so no one can identify them.

A VPN can allow torrenting users an uncongested highway on the internet. VPN providers also offer optimized servers for downloaders to bypass throttling. Using the same mechanism provided above the VPN service establishes a secure tunneled connection with a foreign VPN server, then replaces the user’s IP address and hides all activity from the ISP.


Bypass Throttling on Video Streaming with VPN

Similar to that for torrents, a VPN also provides robust privacy for netizens who love to stream video and audio online. Once under the exclusive care of a VPN server the ISP does not see user activity and hence cannot throttle bandwidth.


Real User FAQs


Question 1 – T-Mobile Sprint Throttling (USA)


So far my normal download speeds rarely break 100 Kbps on Sprints “Now” Network. It should be renamed the “whenever the f*** we get around to it” network.


In case you have had an experience like the unfortunate T-Mobile customer above, no worries we’ll get you sorted out in a minute. Throttling usually occurs when the ISP is monitoring your online activities looking for high speed & high bandwidth events. Once they notice such activities, users are placed in the low priority or ‘throttled’category.

As always VPN is the only pill that can sort out your ISPs throttling fever permanently.The Virtual Private Networkconnects you to a secure US server securing you behind leading edge encryption &tunneling protocols. This allows you to browse, stream, communicate and download without the ISP monitoring your activities.You can consider VPN an invisibility cloak for the internet.

Since you are in the USA it is recommended that you try ExpressVPN since the provider is established with a superb server network in the US. Multiple serversacross 15 US cities strategically placed for turbo speeds allow ExpressVPN to provide users with a perfect solution to ISP throttling. ExpressVPN’s US Servers are located in:

  • Los Angeles,
  • Santa Clara,
  • San Francisco,
  • San Jose,
  • Seattle,
  • Chicago,
  • New York,
  • New Jersey,
  • Washington DC,
  • Miami,
  • Tampa,
  • Las Vegas,
  • Denver,
  • Dallas,
  • Atlanta


Question 2 – Globe Network Throttling (Philippines)


Apparently this month Globe went back on their word and started throttling GoSurf 999 users who have Anti-Bill Shock (paying 1499 combined). So my 4G/LTE connection is now achieving 10 kbps, which is not even enough to load websites. I was assured by Globe sales staff that this would not happen during my 2 year contract duration but apparently that was nothing but a flat lie.

Being on a throttled network is always a massive fun kill especially on tablet devices. Take this poor Globe user on Philippines for instance even after a guarantee from the “honest”sales staff of Globe he is enjoying super 10 kbps speeds on a 4G network.

The simplest solution for this is to use a VPN without even contacting your provider. Staying behind a VPN server enhances data security and online privacy through state of the art encryption & tunneling protocols.The best thing about using the VPN service is that you can also route all your online traffic to pass through a Philippines server, allowing you to do what you love but securely.

Industry icon PureVPN located in Hong Kong is an ideal choice and provides 2 high speed torrents& VoIP optimized servers in the Philippines plus servers in Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, Malta, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. PureVPN is ideal for a number of reasons including zero data retention laws, more than 550 servers across the world, 5 logins using one account in addition to apps for Windows/Mac/iOS & Android.

Once you are connected to the VPN the provider will not be able to throttle your connection based on usage. Usually ISPs throttle traffic for streaming, gaming and torrent downloads, in simpler words anything that they can cap by bandwidth or data. This is usually done to up-sell users more data for as much as $20 per 10GB, this is a loophole telecom providers have found after the net neutrality laws in 2015.


Question 3 – Chromecast  Throttling on Vuze Torrent Client


 I’m a Chromecast subscriber, how do i bypass them to get high speeds using Vuze client?

To bypass T-Mobile throttling on torrents you have one choice. Use a VPN service with P2P & Torrent optimized servers I will recommend either ExpressVPN or PureVPN. I have used both and they are working absolutely fine with my utorrent client. Using what is known as tunneling the VPN will allow you to hide your torrent connections from the ISP and the VPN server will download on your behalf. Here is another user on Reddit with the same issue.

In accordance to T-Mobile’s terms of use you cannot use the unlimited $70 & $80 packages to download torrents. You can check this on T-Mobiles website in the Terms of Use document. The VPN will allow you to bypass the ISP and hide your torrent activity from being noticed by the provider.

I will advise you however to change from T-Mobile since they don’t support torrent downloads over their unlimited data plans. They throttle and place users in the low priority category even if they are not downloading torrents. They have an issue with streaming, torrents and any other activity that uses higher bandwidth.

In a Nutshell

Throttling maybe a growing issue these days, but, it is nothing that a VPN can’t solve. Netizens around the world are using robust VPN services to bypass throttling techniques deployed by ISPs. Torrent downloaders, online VoD streaming fans and even routine browsing users’ can use a VPN to ensure the ISP is not tracking and slowing down their connection.

Take the throttling test above and see if your ISP throttles your internet. In case they do, check out our tested VPN services to bypass throttling and choose the best one for your region.

Ameer Abbas

Ameer Abbas is a senior editor and a most viewed writer on Quora in Internet Privacy, Cyber Security, VPN and Torrents. He has continued work as a privacy advocate with Best VPN Provider and is working towards becoming an established privacy & security author online. Ameer takes a keen interest in technology, geo-political affairs and international cyber laws. Ameer loves outdoor sports including cricket, swimming, athletics, and football.
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