ISP Throttling: What It Is & How to Stop It

graphic of computer being speed throttled

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If you’ve ever wondered, “Why is my internet so slow?” – you’re not alone. Albeit annoying, slow internet is nothing new for most users. Usually, you can chalk it up to bad weather or prime-time network congestion. But what happens when your speeds turn sluggish for no apparent reason? Truth be told, your internet service provider (ISP) may have something to do with it.

In what is known as “speed throttling,” ISPs have the ability to slow down customers’ data transmission. It’s not a great user experience, which is why many providers have stopped throttling speeds or at the very least offer unlimited data options to sidestep this. Nonetheless, users should be aware of it in case their speeds do ever slow down unexpectedly as there are a handful of tricks to remedy this.

Below, we break down how you can tell if your internet is being tampered with and ways you can personally avoid ISP speed throttling in the future.

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What is ISP Speed Throttling?

Internet throttling is when your ISP intentionally limits your upload and download speeds. When this happens, you may experience noticeably slower internet that you can’t explain away with bad weather or equipment issues.

Broadband rules are in place to ensure users are aware when this happens, yet you’re likely to notice a lag in your connection well before getting any courtesy call from your provider. Not to mention, with Net Neutrality tied up in the courts, some worry that ISPs will start picking and choosing what content gets throttled (if they aren’t already).

Luckily, the average internet user is not likely to experience network throttling. Chances are there may be another reason for your slow internet.

Why You May Get Throttled

In order to avoid ISP throttling, you should know why internet providers do this in the first place. This will help you notice if it’s happening to you. Here are the main reasons:

1. Reduce network congestion

Typically, internet service providers throttle data to reduce network congestion. This helps conserve network storage in order to support more customers at once and usually happens during “high traffic” time at night between 7 PM and 10 PM when most people get online after work or school.

2. Impose data limits

Some providers place internet data caps on their plans. When a user exceeds their data allowance for the month, their speeds are significantly slowed to help prioritize other customers’ service. While it’s not ideal, this is definitely better than having your internet access cut off completely.

3. Limit specific internet activity

A bit contentious, ISPs have the ability to pick and choose which websites, activities, or services they limit data to. This includes gaming sites, streaming services, and even torrenting sites. Either in the name of curbing data overages or enforcing copyright laws, providers have the ability to limit or outright censor what content you access online via speed throttling.

How to Check For ISP Throttling

Typically, it starts with a hunch. If you experience poor internet out of nowhere or certain sites are loading slower than others, it’s a good idea to check your speeds.

The best way to go about this is to run an internet speed test with and without a virtual private network (VPN) connected. If your connection is noticeably faster when connected to a VPN, there’s a good chance your ISP is throttling your bandwidth.

Other tests you can run include The Internet Health Test or various M-Lab tests. These look for speed throttling for more common activities like streaming movies and using torrenting sites.

If you’ve determined that your ISP is throttling your service, don’t worry. In the next section, we outline the best ways to avoid this altogether.

How to Avoid ISP Throttling

graphic of three people one a VPN user

If your provider is throttling your internet, know that there are plenty of ways to avoid it. We list the most effective options here:

  1. Sign up for a VPN subscription. A VPN will be able to safely hide your IP address and encrypt your online data, so your provider can’t monitor or limit your online traffic. Of all the solutions, we recommend trying this first.
  1. Upgrade your internet plan to include a higher bandwidth. If you are constantly exceeding your monthly data allowance, it may be time to upgrade to an unlimited plan to avoid any slowdowns.
  1. Monitor your own data use to stay within your data limit. Keeping track of your data use or opting for a higher data allowance can help you avoid overage fees.
  1. Switch to a new internet service provider. Not all ISPs impose data limits on their customers. If you find that your provider is too limiting, it may be time to switch to a new internet provider that offers higher or unlimited data options.


No one likes getting slowed down – especially when it comes to the internet. The good news is you don’t have to put up with it. Whether you change your ISP or upgrade your internet plan, there are many ways to avoid slower speeds.

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Paula Novo
Written By
Paula Novo
Written By
Paula Novo
With over four years of telecom experience, Paula Novo is the Site Editor for HighSpeedOptions. She has helped develop the criteria by which HighSpeedOptions reviews and recommends internet service providers. Paula also leads HighSpeedOptions' coverage of the digital divide, broadband policy, and ISP reviews.