ISP throttling is a more common issue than many users realize. Even though throttling has many symptoms, it usually only has one cause: an ISP meddling with your bandwidth allocation. If you are experiencing one or more of the following, you might be a victim of throttling:
- Long and continual buffering when streaming videos
- Poor download speeds on bittorrent clients
- Speed test results show slower speed than what you signed up for
- Some internet-dependent activities working significantly slower than others.
If any of these is true for you, then you are in dire need of a way to bypass ISP throttling. The easiest solution to this problem is a VPN service.
PureVPN is our recommended VPN to bypass ISP throttling from our reviewed 150+ VPNs, a service costing $1.65/mo , having a pool of 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries to mask your IP address and encrypting your data packets to undo the restraints imposed by your ISP.
In this post, I am going to provide some tips for overcoming this problem both with and without the use of VPNs.
What is ISP Throttling?
Bandwidth throttling happens when an ISP intentionally restricts your bandwidth and slows down internet speed. Throttling usually targets activities like torrenting, gaming, downloading, and streaming.
So, if you’ve ever felt that the download speed you are getting from a torrent is much slower than your actual bandwidth, there’s a good chance that you might be a victim of throttling.
ISPs throttle connections to deal with network congestion and regulate internet network traffic according to their own terms. If an ISP has more clients than their server resources can accommodate, they might be driven to throttle your connection. This means that some services and websites on the internet work faster than others depending on the throttling criteria applied by the service provider.
Suffice it to say, throttling is an issue that is completely unfair to paying subscribers. Thankfully, as long as there are VPN services, there is hope yet for a fairer internet.
ISPs Known for Throttling
There has been a lot of conjecture among users, especially in communities like Reddit, about which ISPs throttle and which of them are fair enough to avoid the practice.
Speculations aside, we now actually have proof from an academic research which conducted over 650,000 tests on US-based ISPs and found some huge names guilty of throttling bandwidth.
The research shows that throttle Netflix traffic 70% of the time and YouTube 74% of the time. T-Mobile and Verizon were also among the ISPs that the researchers found engaged in the practice of throttling.
This report shows that the issue of throttling isn’t something that only small-time providers indulge in. Some of the biggest ISPs in the world are flatly guilty of it too. Over the years, some of the biggest ISPs that have been involved in the practice of throttling are:
- Sprint Corps
- Spectrum (Time Warner Cable)
How VPNs Deal with Throttling
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a private network that allows users to connect to the internet through a secure path from their device/PC to the end node or server. It is different from a conventional network in that it adds a layer of encryption to your data packets as soon as they leave your system. Rather than communicating directly with the website or server that you want to access via your ISP’s server, a VPN uses remote servers that work on your behalf to do all the communication for you.
As such, a VPN guards your secrecy by implementing strong encryption and keeping your real identity masked from the eyes of your ISP. Since ISPs can scrutinize all your internet data, they are privy to your online activities. So, for instance, if they notice that you are a heavy torrent user or like to stream videos endlessly, they can throttle your bandwidth to manage their limited resource capacity.
Un-encrypted internet connection without VPN (visible to the ISP)
Encrypted connection with VPN tunnel (invisible to the ISP)
Since a VPN conceals your internet activities, your ISP can no longer monitor what you do over the internet. Additionally, a VPN cloaks your original IP address and replaces it with the address of a VPN server, thus hiding your true location and identity. You virtually become a ghost that your ISP can’t keep a track of. So, even if they wanted to throttle your connection, they’d be basically shooting in the dark.
What your ISP doesn’t know, they can’t control.
Using VPN to Stop ISP from Throttling your Connection
The trick to bypass data cap and throttling is to turn invisible in the eyes of your ISP. Throttling is only possible when the ISP can see your traffic, so they can separate it into different sections in order to slow down a specific section of their choice.
Since the ISP can’t see your traffic if you are encrypted with a VPN, they won’t be able to separate and throttle it.
So how you deploy a VPN in order to bypass ISP throttling? Follow the steps below:
- Get a VPN subscription and download the VPN app on your device/system
- Install the VPN and launch the app
- Enter your login credentials and choose a server location that is physically closest to you
- As soon as the connection with the server is established, you will be invisible to your ISP
- You should now be able to stream videos and perform other activities seamlessly without throttling
6 Best VPN for Bypassing Throttling by ISPs
Here are some of the best VPN providers that you can use to defeat ISP throttling activities and enjoy unrestricted, blazing fast internet speeds:
- PureVPN ($1.65/month)
- Surfshark ($1.99/month)
- Ivacy ($1.99/month)
- ExpressVPN ($8.32/month)
- CyberGhost ($2.75/month)
- NordVPN ($3.49/month)
1. PureVPN ( $1.65/mo )
PureVPN has an impressive network of 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries worldwide. It uses advanced security features such as Kill Switch and DNS leak protection to mask your real location and identity perfectly. As such, you can easily evade throttling by connecting to one of PureVPN’s secure servers.
With split-tunneling and a trusty killswitch, you can rely on this VPN to keep your identity safely hidden from your ISP, giving you unrestricted access to services such as torrenting, Netflix streaming, and general web-surfing.
The provider is also rated as the best low-cost VPN of 2019 so far. If value for money is what you’re after, then you can’t go wrong with PureVPN.
You can learn more about this provider in this PureVPN review.
2. Surfshark ($1.99/mo)
Surfshark is an emerging VPN provider with excellent features. Currently, it offers 1,040+ servers around the world and uses OpenVPN protocols along with IKEv2. It offers zero-logging policy and supports P2P torrenting.
Want to know the best part?
The 2-year subscription is available for only $1.99/mo. This means that you can use Surfshark to bypass ISP throttling on Windows 10, Mac OS, iOS, and Android. In addition, you can connect unlimited devices to the VPN with a single Surfshark account.
With highly valuable privacy-enhancing features such as WhiteLister, Kill Switch, and MultiHop, your chances of successfully bypassing throttling will easily multiply with the use of Surfshark, as these features are particularly useful for throttled connections.
In terms of speed, Surfshark is extremely efficient and is ranked first as the fastest VPN service for 2019.
You can check out our exclusive Surfshark review to discover hidden gems of this British Virgin Island provider.
3. Ivacy ($1.99/mo)
Ivacy is a super affordable VPN service based in Singapore. This VPN provider offers 1000+ servers across 100+ locations which are seriously quite impressive. Not only that, Ivacy is among the very few VPNs that offer unlimited bandwidth.
Other than that, Ivacy comes packed with security features like 256-Bit Encryption, No Logs Policy, Smart Purpose Selection and a ton of other amazing features.
Best of all, Ivacy costs only $1.99 a month, offers 5 simultaneous connections, and is covered by a full 30-days money-back guarantee.
To know more about this popular VPN service, check out our Ivacy review.
4. ExpressVPN ($8.32/mo)
ExpressVPN has a powerful server infrastructure of 3,000+ servers in 94+ countries that offer consistently fast speeds. With this VPN, users can experience considerable improvements in their Internet speed if they are on a throttled network connection. Because of its throttling prevention capabilities, it’s also one of the best vpn services for streaming.
It offers native apps for a wide variety of devices and operating systems, including Mac. In fact, it is one of the best in the market if you want to bypass ISP throttling on a Mac.
Read our detailed ExpressVPN review to know about other salient attributes of the service.
5. CyberGhost ($2.75/mo)
CyberGhost is a Romanian provider that offers 5,500+ servers in over 90 countries. It can be used to connect to 7 devices simultaneously. The security and encryption features ensure the protection of users and the wide server network allows users to bypass throttling with remarkable efficiency.
The provider works well for streaming as well as torrenting. Since these are the activities most heavily throttled by ISPs, CyberGhost can come in real handy for those suffering with restricted bandwidth.
Furthermore, CyberGhost is one of the few VPNs in the market that offers 45-day money-back guarantee. In addition, it offers a one-day free trial. As such, you can take VPN for a test drive for free and experience its unique features first-hand.
For more information about this provider, read our CyberGhost review.
6. NordVPN ($3.49/mo)
Note: We don’t recommend NordVPN at the moment due to its security vulnerabilities.
NordVPN is a Panama based VPN service that provides 5,500+ servers in 60+ countries globally. It has a mammoth-size server network and excellent security features for the protection of users.
Apart from utilizing this immense server strength to sidestep your ISP’s throttling gimmicks, the VPN also offers you a lot of important features for extra privacy. These include Onion over VPN, DoubleVPN, and Kill Switch. Turning these features will ensure that you stay outside of your ISP’s radar.
To know more about this popular Panama based service, check out our NordVPN review.
Free VPNs for Bypassing Throttling
Using premium VPN services is recommended because these providers generally offer better quality of services and overall features. However, the charm of free services is hard to shake off. This is especially true when there are a few pretty good providers in the market offering VPNs for free.
Following are some of the best free VPN to bypassing throttling:
However, remember that these won’t deliver the same reliability and performance that paid VPNs do, and come bandwidth limitations of their own.
Key Features of a VPN for Bypassing Throttling by ISP
The easiest way to prevent ISP throttling is to use a VPN.
A VPN secures your internet traffic by encrypting it. As a result, you can hide your online tasks from your ISP to certain degree.
However, not all VPN providers are equipped with the right set of features needed to circumvent a throttled connection with maximum security.
Here are some attributes of VPNs that are beneficial for successfully bypassing throttling:
Shared IP Addresses
When you connect to a VPN service of your choice, you usually get an IP address that is shared by multiple users. This makes it almost impossible for any ISP to uniquely identify you and impose any bandwidth limitations. Since ISPs recognize users by their IP address, they can’t target you for throttling if you are using an alien IP assigned to you by your VPN.
In fact, if you keep switching VPN servers every other day, there’s no chance that your ISP will have any clue about your online activities, leaving your free to surf the web without any restrictions on your IP address.
Secure Tunneling Protocols
VPNs encapsulate your traffic in a layer of encryption that keeps your data indecipherable to any third-party that might intercept it during communication. Protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2 are particularly strong and will keep your data from being inspected and controlled by your ISP.
Kill Switch Data Leak Protection
Most renowned VPN services are equipped with a kill switch as an insurance policy to keeping your identity safely hidden. A kill switch ensures that if your VPN connection drops for any reason, your internet connection is also simultaneously cut off. This precludes your real IP address from leaking and becoming visible to the web and your ISP, which is what you must avoid for successful evasion of throttling,
No Logs Policy
When choosing a VPN, the factor of logging policy can never be ignored. The practice of logging is antithetical to the preservation of privacy. Since boosting online privacy is the primary function of any legitimate VPN service, the logging policy should be transparent and free of any shady clauses.
For more information, read our guide that describes different VPN services logging policies in detail.
How to know if your Network is throttled?
Internet throttling directly affects users. However, users usually have no clue that their connection is, in fact, being strangled by the ISP, as it is difficult to determine the fact through human judgment alone.
This is where the Internet Health Test comes in.
This is a tool created by freedom advocates that measure variations in speeds through a series of individual tests. The more consistent the results of each test, the less likely it is that your connection is being throttled. Check it out to see if you are a victim of throttling.
There are certain services and websites that are usually targeted by ISPs for throttling. This includes Netflix, YouTube, and torrents. If you want to find out whether you need to bypass ISP throttling Netflix, you can perform a test using Netflix’s FAST tool.
If this test registers a speed slower than the standard speed test, then this can be an indication that your ISP is throttling Netflix. For mobile users, there’s an app called Wehe which can test if your Wi-Fi or data provider is throttling speeds on your phones.
None of these tests are 100% reliable, but you can collate the results of these tests with each other. If all the tests are pointing towards the possibility of throttling, then there’s a good chance your ISP is involved in throttling your connection.
How to Bypass ISP Throttling on Android without Rooting Device?
Android users tend to resort to solutions like device rooting in order to avoid running a throttled connection. However, rooting is a risky procedure and it can leave your device vulnerable to software bugs and malware infections.
Unless you know exactly what you’re doing and are a tech hobbyist, I would strongly recommend against rooting your phone. The beauty of VPN services is that they can be used to bypass throttling on Android devices without the need for rooting.
Just follow the steps below to setup a VPN on your Android and use the Internet the neutral way:
- Choose a VPN from the listed providers above
- Purchase a subscription or download a free VPN
- Install the app on your device
- Start the app and choose a desired server location
- Experience the Internet with minimal throttling
This way, you can keep your stock Android intact and get the job done much more simply as well!
You can read about the best VPN app for Android here.
How to Bypass ISP Throttling on iPhone?
iPhone users are just as likely to face issues regarding sluggish speed and connection drops due to ISP throttling. To get rid of these problems affecting your speed, an iPhone VPN can be immensely helpful as in the case of Android.
Here’s how to successfully bypass throttling by ISP on iPhone in simple steps:
- Choose from one of the best VPN services (mentioned above)
- Make an account on VPN provider’s website
- Download and install the VPN app on your device
- Upon successful installation, launch VPN, choose from overseas VPN servers and hit connect!
- After connecting to VPN, perform Speedtest to check improvement in connection speed
How to Bypass ISP Throttling on Windows?
To check whether your connection is throttled by your ISP on Windows, you can try stress testing your connection by running multiple bandwidth-intensive programs at the same time.
For instance, run YouTube videos, Netflix, Skype, Internet download manager, and any other app you can think of. Then, perform a Speedtest and check the connection speed.
Next, download and install one of the above-mentioned VPN services, and once more perform a speed test. If you get better performance with a VPN, there’s a definite probability that you are running a throttled connection.
Why ISPs Throttle Bandwidth?
According to the standard claim made by ISPs regarding throttling. It is a necessary part of managing and maintaining the quality of Internet service, especially during times when user traffic is at its peak.
By throttling, service providers can reduce congestion on their servers to maintain stability in the connection for users. This, at least, is what is supposed to be the main rationale behind throttling.
But here’s the kicker:
There are other profit-driven motives for ISPs to throttle connections. How?
By throttling certain services and websites, ISPs can slow down these services unless a premium amount is paid by the targeted websites for full-speed connection. This would mean higher costs for the users since they would have to pay more just to avoid their connection being throttled by the ISP.
The worst part of this is that we don’t even have net neutrality laws to count on anymore. Thus, it is only a matter of time before these tactics become commonplace among ISPs.
FCC Dismantles Net Neutrality: Making ISP Throttling Foreseeable
Net neutrality was embodied as a law that the FCC had the authority to enforce on ISPs. The principle of neutrality ensured zero discrimination against any form of web content or site. Unfortunately, the principle is no longer upheld by FCC when it was repealed almost a year ago after receiving overwhelming votes against it.
Without regulation from authorities like FCC, ISPs can control internet speeds allowed for any particular part of the Internet at their discretion. As such, the repeal of net neutrality is a huge blow to our ability to have equal access and data usage on the Internet as there is no legal protection against activities like throttling on the part of ISPs.
Why Bandwidth Throttling is Unfair?
The power of the Internet lies in its ability to make communication and propagation of information easier between people around the world.
Equality on the Internet has always been taken for granted as it served the role of a platform where people had equal online access and autonomy.
The principle of net neutrality was developed for the express purpose of preserving this freedom inherent to the Internet.
With net neutrality repealed, ISPs now have unprecedented power over bandwidth throttling, upsetting the balance of equality and robbing people of their autonomy over Internet usage.
If that isn’t unfair, then I don’t know what is.
PureVPN is our suggested VPN service due to 2,000+ servers, affordability, and highly functional privacy-oriented features that are particularly suited for bypassing throttling.
ISP throttling is an act that can be seen as unethical, unfair, and violates equal rights and should be abolished on multiple grounds. With net neutrality gone, there is – as of yet – no better weapon against the menace of ISP throttling than a VPN service with the right set of features to prevent these problems.
You will need to get a VPN first. Get one from the list above or any other of your choice, connect to a server, and then launch your BitTorrent client for downloading. This would mask your IP address, allowing you to bypass throttling when torrenting.
If your ISP is one from the list of provides mentioned at the top, chances are your connection is being throttled. However, use Internet Health Test, Fast, and Ookla Tests to determine the status of your throttling for sure.
You can’t stop your ISP throttling.
But you can fool your ISP and avoid being throttled using a VPN service.
Unfortunately, with net neutrality laws now repealed, ISPs can legally throttle your Internet connection.
Yes. If the VPN is not secure enough or is prone to leaks, then ISPs can throttle your connection even through a VPN.
Not unless the VPN you are using has poor encryption and security features. Make sure you use a VPN that offers strong protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2 in addition to using at least AES 256-bit encryption.
This would definitely keep your ISP at bay from snooping on your activities.
Previously, AT&T was in the limelight due to internet throttling issues. The organization throttled the internet data of their subscribers those who were using unlimited internet package at that time.
Therefore, you are left with no option other than VPN to combat the notorious acts of AT&T in the right way.
Comcast uses bandwidth-throttling strategy to decrease the additional usage of data signals.
As soon as the Comcast servers notice an increase in internet traffic with respect to Netflix streaming, users start losing their connection speeds.
In this situation, the role of Comcast VPN comes in handy. This is because users can evade Comcast tracking activities significantly with a VPN and sustain the desired level of internet speeds eventually.
You should also consider this useful resource which guides about VPNs that still work with Netflix even in 2019.
You can use a VPN for the sake of overcoming the said data throttling issue. By doing so, you will not face buffering hassles while watching your preferred media content on YouTube or Netflix too.
When you are connected to a VPN server of your choice, Verizon is unable to trace your online tasks including video streaming as well.
Straight Talk is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that works in partnership with Wal-Mart and TracFone. It offers voice, data plans for GSM, and CDMA devices for cheaper rates than standard network operators do.
Unfortunately, the service imposes bandwidth throttling after data consumption of users exceeds 2.5 GB. This occurs even if the user has purchased a 10 GB plan: the speeds simply drop down once 2.5 GB of the allotted bandwidth has been used.
Since a VPN effectively turns you invisible to the eyes of the service provider, you can utilize one to avoid bandwidth limits on Straight Talk.
Zero-rating is a controversial strategy that some ISPs use. A zero-rating plan basically allows customers to receive unlimited bandwidth for selected apps, while usage on other apps is treated the same way i.e. with restrictions.
This is not a good thing because it encourages monopolization and discourages competition among Internet services.
If certain providers are favored while others are ignored, it would just introduce needless obstacles for upcoming services and apps to attract enough traffic simply because they are on the wrong end of the zero-rating.
An example of zero-rating is T-Mobile’s “Binge On” plan, which provides users unlimited data for YouTube and Netflix. Suffice to say, such tactics are not going to benefit the growth of Internet services in the long-term.