Most ISPs in the U.S. throttle their customers’ bandwidth to some degree. For the time being, it is completely legal for them to do so, but you also have tools at your disposal to avoid it.
What Is Throttling?
Bandwidth throttling—also called internet throttling—is a technique through which an internet service provider limits your internet speeds for a particular activity. The most common reason ISP’s throttle is when customers have reached their data cap for the month. A more insidious form of throttling occurs when an ISP limits a particular service, such as Netflix and Dish TV, or intentionally targets a competitor. Not all throttling is inherently bad, however. ISPs also use it to manage their networks and ensure a good experience for all, but when used in a benign fashion, chances are that you will not even notice it.
Slow Internet Can Have Many Causes
Be mindful that there are many different reasons that you may be experiencing slow Wi-Fi or even a slow Ethernet connection. Rather than assume that the problem is throttling, we recommend assessing the connection first. Does the problem exist when connected to Ethernet? If rebooting your network equipment does not fix it, it may be time to call out a technician. If the problem is limited to Wi-Fi, chances are it is not throttling. It could be that your router is old, cheap or just poorly positioned.
Test Your Internet
If your network checks out and you do believe you are being throttled, it is important to have a clear idea of when it is occurring because your testing will require you to recreate the circumstances. For instance, if you experience throttling while watching Dish Latino through your Roku device that is connected to your wireless router, you will want to maintain that setup. Next, test your internet speed through an online speed test. We recommend a tool like Fast.com. It makes your ISP think you are connecting through Netflix, and if your speeds are lower than they should be, you are being throttled.
Find a Good VPN and Test Your Internet Using It
Of course, internet speed tests are not foolproof. The only way to know for sure is to purchase access to a good VPN service. There are many good VPN services available, and most are quite affordable. Once connected through a VPN, test your speed again and compare. You should also watch Hulu through your Roku—per our earlier example—and see if the experience differs for better or worse.
Using Your VPN to Avoid Throttling
Note that if you are being throttled due to data caps, a VPN will not help. The reason is that your ISP will, per your contract, just limit your entire connection. However, if your ISP is throttling you selectively, then using a VPN all the time will avoid throttling since it hides your online activities. There are other good reasons to use a VPN, such as protecting your identity and sensitive data. On the other hand, a VPN will slow your connection to some degree and can cause issues with some online activities.
Your Other Options
You may want to contact your internet service provider like Spectrum, they have great customer service that will assist you and may ask them to stop throttling you. They may agree, or they may not. You can even threaten to cancel your service, but how much leverage you have will depend on the competition in your area. ISP competition is improving in the U.S. That said, most Americans already have the best Internet available to them and do not have many other viable options.
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